Iranian director Asghar Farhadi won a much-deserved Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for 2011's A Separation, a drama about a couple divorcing in Tehran. The politics were there mostly as subtext. In The Past, Farhadi focuses on another couple splitting up. This time the language is French and the setting is Paris, but the process remains agonizing. Ahmad (a stellar Ali Mosaffa) has come to France from Tehran to finalize his divorce from Marie (Bérénice Bejo). Due to a hotel mix-up, Ahmad must stay in Marie's home with her three children – two daughters from Bérénice Bejo). Due to a hotel mix-up, Ahmad must stay in Marie's home with her three children – two daughters from a different father, and the son of her current Persian lover, Samir (Tahar Rahim), whose ex-wife is in a coma. The plot is the impurest of soap opera, but Farhadi's artistry and resonant humanism transcend melodrama and cultural barriers. Bejo (The Artist) digs deep into the secrets and lies that have afflicted all her relationships, in a wonderfully affecting film that haunts you long after it ends.
From The Archives Issue 1200: January 16, 2014