By Bill Paterson
“A Separation”, Iran’s Oscar entry for best foreign language film, is one of the most acclaimed films of the year. It is a brilliantly executed and morally complex tale chronicling what happens when otherwise decent people
are led astray by ingrained cultural norms and a stubborn refusal to consider any point of view but their own.
As the film opens, a couple are sitting side by side speaking to an unseen man in what passes for divorce court in present day Iran. Simin (Lelia Hatami) has obtained a visa to leave Iran, a country in which she sees no future for herself or her family. Her husband Nader (Peyman Moadi) refuses to either leave or to consent to a divorce, insisting he cannot abandon his father who has Alzheimer’s. They each have valid claims on the other. Life will
be better for the family outside the reign of the Mullahs, but how does one leave a terminally ill parent, and what effect will either of their choices have on their 12-year-old-daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi)?
As the emotional temperature ratchets up, Simin and Nader set the stage for virtually every human interaction in the film. Compromise is spurned and shrill argument is the default discussion mode. The upshot is that Simin is refused a divorce and moves in with her parents, leaving Nader with his gravely incapacitated father and Termah.
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Bill Paterson is Of Counsel at Ferguson Case Orr Paterson LLP in Ventura. He is an avid filmgoer.