1. Movies

Review: Oscar-winning film 'A Separation' is powerful art that entertains and informs

The crumbling marriage of Simin (Leila Hatami), left, and Nader (Peyman Moadi) drives the movie’s reflection of Iranian culture.
Published Feb. 29, 2012

A Separation (PG-13) (123 min.) - With all the saber rattling coming from Iran these days, it's possible to overlook the fact that ordinary people with complex problems live there, and they're a lot like us. Writer-director Asghar Farhadi focuses on such a household in A Separation, and deservedly won an Oscar for best foreign language film as a result.

Farhadi tells the story of Nader (Peyman Maadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami), whose marriage is on the brink of failure. Simin wants to leave Iran with her teenage daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi), seeking a more stable, less volatile environment. Nader wants to stay, devoted to his country and caring for his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi) suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

In Iran's culture the solution could be a divorce but those are difficult to get approved, as Farhadi depicts in a striking, single-take opening scene, with the couple pleading their cases directly to the camera. We are to be the judge they're addressing, as the situation grows more complex.

Nader reluctantly agrees to a trial separation, hiring Razieh (Sareh Bayat) as caretaker for his father while he goes to work. Simin goes to live with relatives, sharing custody of Termeh with her husband. Razieh is unprepared to handle the father's needs, and she's pregnant.

These factors collide, leaving the father unattended. Nader angrily confronts Razieh, resulting in an accidental death and a murder charge. Not to mention the wrath of Razieh's husband Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini), who didn't know she was working for Nader. Iran's male-dominated culture fuels Farhadi's drama, with women seeking autonomy and men blocking it out of pride and tradition.

Farhadi's even-handed approach to the situation gives A Separation a kind of Rashomon effect, with each character having his or her own version of events, and the truth muddled somewhere in between. It's a mystery wrapped inside an enigmatic nation, flawlessly acted and difficult to predict. I'm always impressed when a movie informs about a foreign culture while it entertains, and this one is powerful art in that regard.

A Separation is shown with English subtitles, opening Friday exclusively at BayWalk 20 in St. Petersburg. A

Steve Persall, Times movie critic


  1. From left: Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell, Sterling K. Brown and Renée Elise Goldsberry in "Waves." Courtesy of A24
    It is the third time production company A24 has shot here.
  2. Alexa Demie, left, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. in "Waves." Courtesy of A24
    ‘Frankie,’ ‘Playmobil: The Movie’ and ‘Marriage Story’ also open, and the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival begins.
  3. Ana De Aramas and Daniel Craig in "Knives Out." CLAIRE FOLGER  |  Lionsgate
    Plus, a screening of ‘5B’ for World AIDS Day and Tampa Theatre shows 'Miracle on 34th Street’ as part of its holiday film series.
  4. "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" stars Tom Hanks. LACEY TERRELL  |  TriStar Pictures/Sony Pictures
    ‘21 Bridges’ and 'The Irishman’ also open locally, plus a film in the park and the anniversary screening of ‘Galaxy Quest.’
  5. Director Dan Myrick, left, and Kristian Krempel are pictured on Seventh Avenue in Tampa's Ybor City.
    The series features six 15-minute fictional horror stories based on Ybor history.
  6. Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott in "Charlie's Angels." MERIE WEISMILLER WALLACE  |  Columbia Pictures
    Screenings of ‘Turning Point’ and ‘Lionel Richie at Glastonbury’ are also in store for the week.
  7. FILE - In this April 3, 2019, file photo characters from Disney and Fox movies are displayed behind Cathleen Taff, president of distribution, franchise management, business and audience insight for Walt Disney Studios during the Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures presentation at CinemaCon 2019, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. On Tuesday, Nov. 12, Disney Plus launches its streaming service. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File) CHRIS PIZZELLO  |  Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
    The Walt Disney Company’s foray into streaming services is off with a few hitches
  8. The Blair Witch Project director Dan Myrick, left, and his production company partner Kristian Krempel on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City.
    The production company estimates it will spend over $1 million locally
  9. Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Terminator: Dark Fate." KERRY BROWN  |  Paramount Pictures
    ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ and ‘Arctic Dogs’ open, too, plus screenings of ‘Jane’ with a score by the Florida Orchestra and ‘Parasite.’
  10. Former WWE wrestler turned actor John Hennigan performs stunts in the movie "Speed of Time" being made in Clearwater. Christian Cashmir
    It stars former WWE wrestler-turned-actor John Hennigan.