Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Contrary to my preconceived notion that the focal point would be solely based on the separation/divorce of its main characters, A Separation surprised me as it strayed from this generic caste and plunged itself into a deep, stirring portrait of humility, desperation, and moral dilemma.
For the first half hour (or thereabouts), the picture centers on the titular separation, but as the focus shifts to the husband's point of view, the film takes a new turn and finds itself taking on an unrelated dramatic center, creating further conflict and giving us further insight as to why their separation was imminent.
With one of the strongest casts of the year, having to single out one specific performance as being the "best" would be an impossible task. From Hatami and Moaadi's performances as two parents facing divorce, Hosseini and Bayat as a desperate couple taking legal action against Moaadi, to Farhadi's performance as the daughter of the doomed couple, stuck in the middle of the whole thing, the ensemble is one of the best I've seen in some time.
Utilizing brilliant camera angles, often putting viewers into the perspective of unwelcome guests, we are given no choice but to look on as spectators to the legal duelings of a murder charge and collapse of a once-healthy marriage. Several moments almost feel too personal for us viewers to witness, but observing these instances is far too difficult for us to resist.
No character in this picture possesses the moral, or ethical high-ground. No matter the cause, or as virtuous as their intentions may be, no character can be viewed as totally innocent, and without the aid of this hero/villain classification, we are forced to view them all as everyday people doing what they think is best for themselves in an unfortunate situation. Certainly not the first movie to achieve this balance, but remarkably manages to sustain it with great success.
In order for the twists and turns of the plot to work we are not always given the answers at times when the questions are raised, but director/screenwriter Farhadi manages to weave together the story slowly and meticulously, never revealing too much too early, supplying details with perfect timing. Truly a marvelously written screenplay, and possibly the most well-paced direction of the year.
Few movies made in this day and age are able to convey as much power and emotion as this film. It was a staggering experience -- an incredible, unexpected surprise.