The Past (Asghar Farhadi, 2014)

What's it about? Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) travels from Iran to France to finalise his divorce from his estranged wife Marie (Bérénice Bejo), who now wishes to marry her boyfriend Samir (Tahar Rahim), whose own wife lies in a vegetative state in hospital following a suicide attempt. Complications ensue.


Is it any good? Farhadi's follow-up to the Oscar-winning A Separation may not quite be as good as that superlative film, but it's a similarly engrossing drama, which draws the audience into the messy emotional world of the protagonists. In previous films such as A Separation and About Elly, Farhadi used a modern Iranian setting to emphasise how cultural and societal pressures acted to constrict the characters. In this film the French setting means those pressures are less important, but the characters are constricted nonetheless, this time by historical pressures, as their various overlapping back-stories refuse to let them move forward without the weight of the past dragging them back. The details of these back-stories are drip-fed to the viewer in wonderfully assured fashion, almost like a murder-mystery, with Samir's comatose wife acting as the victim. As we discover more about past events, sympathies shift from character to character as we begin to understand the baggage they all carry and their struggles to collectively and individually deal with it. It's intelligent, grown-up drama, with great performances, including from the children as the kids who must burden their fair share of their parents past exploits. That said, it does falter in finding a satisfying resolution, although the obvious riposte is that real-life rarely finishes neatly either. However, it felt like a bit of a cop-out to me though, which was a bit disappointing given the quietly gripping drama that preceded it.

I don't trust you. What do others think? An enthusiastic reception all round, with critics and audiences alike impressed by Farhadi's ability to generate such gripping drama from 'ordinary' set-up. This is the first film Farhadi has made outside of Iran and in this interview he discusses his motivations and inspirations for The Past.

What does the Fonz think? Past tense.




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