2011 Running time: 123 Certificate: pg Rating: 4

Synopsis

Captivating Iranian drama following the separation of a middle-class couple - and the intrigues that follow when the husband hires a lower-class caretaker for his Alzheimer's-afflicted father. A cultural eye-opener that deservedly won the 2012 Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

Director

  • Asghar Farhadi

Cast

  • Leila Hatami

  • Peiman Ma'adi

  • Shahab Hosseini

  • Sareh Bayat

Review

Any film that manages to explore marriage, religion, Alzheimer's, class divides and moral relativity in a fair and balanced way - and in under two hours - deserves our attention.

But the fact that Asghar Farhadi's film examines so many weighty issues in the context of modern-day Tehran of all places, and with such extraordinary dignity and reserve, merits serious applause - and is, no doubt, the reason the film won the prestigious Golden Bear at this year's Berlinale.

The drama opens with thirty-something couple Nader (Ma'adi) and Simin (Hatami) asking a judge for a divorce. Simin wants to move abroad to give their 11-year-old girl Termeh (Sarina Farhadi, the director's daughter) the chance of a better future (the only blatant anti-Iranian political point the film makes).

Nader doesn't want to go - his father has Alzheimer's - and so the couple embark on a trial separation, with Simin moving out to stay with her mother, and Termeh staying with her father.

An altercation between Nader and Razieh, the pregnant maid he has hired to look after his father, has tragic consequences and ones which force Nader - and the audience - to address the deep divides separating the educated middle classes from the vulnerable poor like Razieh and her hot-headed husband.

The camera and the script are inquisitive - at points the film feels like a mystery - but both are always fair, giving equal weight to every perspective.

Razieh's religious beliefs are both a hindrance - she has to call a faith hotline to ask if it would be a sin to clean Nader's father when he soils himself - but also a powerful force for good, as we see at the end of the film in a way that the secular, educated members of society cannot understand or replicate.

A film with mature performances all round (including its two child stars), this is a rare gem that refuses to point fingers and sheds a fascinating light on Iranian culture and relationships in general.