Length: 123 minutes / 2.05 hours
Regardless of where you live on this planet, plenty of scenarios are just as likely to happen in Tehran as they are in Toledo. This is where A Separation (2011) pulls its strength. Set in a mostly modern Iran, A Separation is a series of dramatic twists that could probably happen to anyone. After all, tons of people have to deal with elderly parents with Alzheimer’s. There are plenty of divorces for trivial and non-trivial reasons. Good help is hard to find and even harder to afford. The combination of these things results in a gripping narrative that’s only given a distinctive Iranian flavor by its cultural limitations.
If anything, A Separation shows how difficult it is to be a woman in a Muslim country. It’s not impossible, but certain limitations become evident when the strict religious rules of the Quoran come into play. It was nice to see a more liberal version of Islam represented in this film, as it felt closer to a society I could understand as someone who is not part of that religion. That being said, I found the amount of time spent in the court system in this movie was a bit much, even if it was necessary to get to the bottom of what happened.
The drama in A Separation is quite intense, with allegations of theft, murder, and neglect flying between the main characters. Making these things seem natural and realistic was a triumph and likely why this film won the Best Foreign Film Oscar for that year. The visual style felt very intimate, almost like it was a reality show or a documentary. Perhaps this style is what lends itself to the everyday struggles of A Separation’s characters and how universal they are across the borders of all countries in the world.
A universal family drama with an Iranian twist, I give A Separation 4.5 stars out of 5.