The Past

In this French-language film, an Iranian man arrives in Paris to complete a divorce from his French wife.  The civil divorce is easily accomplished, but unwinding the threads of their previously intertwined lives (complete with relationships with current and former stepchildren) proves more complicated. These aren’t cutesy Hollywood children either

The director, Asgar Farhadi, is Iranian, and is best known in the West for the Oscar-nominated Iranian film, A Separation, another excellent film which explores, like this one, the things that bind even unhappy families together.  This film is cast with French, French Arab and Iranian actors; the only one likely to be familiar to American audiences is Berenice Bejo, who was the female lead in The Artist.  This director has a particular gift with children — the performance he coaxes out of a boy who can’t be more than 5 or 6 is simply amazing.  .

My daughter has pointed out to me that, although Iran has an active film industry, many Iranian film-makers concentrate on family topics.  This apparently is to avoid the heavy hand of the censors.  The best directors, though, use the form to explore issues well outside the family context.  The questions this movie asks — Should things we have done, and mistakes we may have made, in the past, stay in the past? Or should we drag them out into the sunlight and deal with them in the present”  — are, I would imagine, pretty politically important in Iran these days.

Highly recommended, and likely to be of interest to both adults and thoughtful adolescents.  If you liked the movie, The Descendants, which has a somewhat similar theme, you’ll probably like this one, although the French film is grittier and less neatly wrapped-up than the American one.

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