Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Separation

This Iranian movie takes you right into an acrimonious and animated debate between a belligerent couple presenting their case for separation before a judge [that's the camera]. The case involves the wife’s request for a divorce so that she can take their preteen daughter out of Iran for 'a better life', and the husband’s decision to stay and care for his father whose daily living competence is fading with Alzheimer’s disease. They speak their arguments right into your face [you're the face of the judge].

The story then introduces another couple from a very different background - the have nots because they do not have jobs or money. The foursomes are brought together through conflicts that revolve around two offsprings – the unborn foetus of the empty-handed couple who live from hand to mouth, and the 11-year-old caught between her self-sufficient and warring parents. Both minors have no power to control the outcome of the situations they are in - the foetus its chance of being born, and the preteen’s desire to keep her parents from separating. Though at the centre of intertwined conflicts, both have no voice and little choice.

The power play at the crux of the contentions between the two dyads is palpable. They are triggerd by two false statements. The pregnant house help lied about being pushed by her employer that results in her miscarriage as legislation offers neither sympathy nor offer of compensation for her loss. Her employer feigned ignorance about her pregnancy to manipulate a law he deems unable to protect his innocence. As the plot thickens with more deception, the distinction between victim and villain, truth and a lie is made obscure and abstruse.

Finally, when all the convolutions of half-truths and cover-ups are unravelled, you are taken back to the divorce courtroom. Now the child caught in her parents' breakup takes centre stage before a judge waiting for her to answer the onerous question of who she will follow. Once again, you [the audience] returns to the earlier position of the judge, and she's speaking directly to you. Her anguish is palpable, her reluctance to articulate her decision a powerful statement for the right of any child in such a position not to answer. What would you do if you were an 11-year-old? The resulting cliff-hanger is forgiveable.

Powerful and convincing portrayals of ordinary folks with deep issues common to man. Good English subtitles lead you through the plots and sub-plots without skipping a beat.

This intense drama is not recommended for those who just want to sit back and unwind. I was pretty wound up after...even the Starbucks latte in hand didn't help.