Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: The Past

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
Asghar Farhadi's latest, "The Past," is similar to the director's terrific 2011 Oscar winner "A Separation" in that it also includes a storyline about a couple going through a divorce as well as explores the idea that it's often difficult to find the truth in any situation the further we probe into the matter.

And while this new film, which is set in France rather than the director's homeland of Iran, does not reach the heights of Farhadi's previous film, it is still a very well-acted and well-scripted movie.

At the film's beginning, Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) has flown to Paris from Iran to meet up with his estranged wife to grant her a divorce, so that she can remarry Samir (Tahar Rahim). But Ahmad finds a wealth of problems upon his arrival: Samir is not divorced from wife, whom we are told is in a coma after she attempted to commit suicide, his soon to be ex-wife Marie's (Berenice Bejo, of "The Artist") older daughter will not set foot in the home and Samir's son is acting unruly. Ahmad soon finds himself acting as peacekeeper as tensions escalate between the family members.

As was the case in "A Separation," not everything is exactly as it seems and, through several reveals during the course of the film, we find out exactly why Samir's wife is in a coma and why the daughter won't live in the house with her mother and Samir.

I tend not to complain of running times and can vouch that a number of my favorite pictures are long and slow moving. "The Past" has the feel of a well-paced drama and almost plays as a thriller - as did "A Separation" - but it's also, perhaps, a little too long for the story involved.

Bejo is pretty terrific as Marie, who is pregnant, smoking nonstop and, often, in a state of rage or anguish at the film's other characters. And Mosaffa brings a complexity to Ahmad, a character that is not as up-front with his emotions as Marie.

Despite that it's more of a minor work compared to his previous film, "The Past" is still quite good. And it's further proof that Farhadi is a filmmaker who is not just interested in story or character, but rather ideas, and he puts his plot lines and characters to great use to further these ideas.

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