In his introduction, the director, Asghar Farhadi (About Elly) asked the audience to forget everything they had read or may previously know about his new film. Though I had read a previous review on PopMatters of the film at the Sydney Film Fest, I abided by dissolving any expectations since I came to the New York Film Festival to watch films I would not ordinarily find. This film, A Separation, is more than a simple family drama piece as it totally captures the viewer just as the entire cast is caught up. Husband Nader (Peyman Moadi) and wife Simin (Leila Hatami), at the center of the separation, stumble into a situation that challenges their Islamic beliefs and morals and those of another family, their friends and their young daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi).
Farhadi (the director) does not ever preach about or challenge Islam. He carefully shows how difficult believing and interpreting the faith can be in Iran. When Nader’s father needs to be cared for, the hired help Razieh (Sareh Bayat) has to phone her mosque to get guidance before helping the elderly man with Alzheimer’s. Later the shariah legal procedure throws each character’s actions into stark contrast as the judge is unwilling to change the charges to reflect people’s motivations. At the center of it all is Termeh who wishes to get her two parents back together.
At the end of the NYFF screening, as the film’s ending still lingered, Farhadi, gave gracious thanks to the audience and sat down for a brief question and answer (with the aid of a translator). When asked about the experiences of casting his own daughter (Sarina) in the role of Termeh, Fahadi smirked, when guiding other actors they would respond quickly but Sarina would have to ask “why?”. As he continued, Farhadi described how he carefully scripted the film so that his direction was hidden. This craftsmanship allows the actors of A Separation to feel genuine and the film to be a powerful award-winner. But forget you read any of this when you see it.