Asghar Farhadi’s reputation soared in the wake of his last film, A Separation which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Academy Awards. This latest film from the Iranian auteur is his first to be filmed outside of his native country.

Ahmed (Ali Mosaffa)  returns to Paris from Iran to divorce his French wife Marie (Bérénice Bejo, The Artist). The couple have been separated for four years, and Marie has asked him to come for the legal formalities, although a lawyer could have handled the matter by proxy. Ahmed has decided to come anyway, intent on ending the relationship on good terms. However, his former wife has ignored his request to book him into a hotel, inviting him to stay in her home, despite the fact that she now has a new lover, Samir (Tahar Rahim). He is already married.

Ahmed soon realises that he is in deeper than he wants to be, drawn into a domestic conflict involving, in effect, three children, none of whom are his, yet all of whom are suffering.

Inexorably, The Past becomes a compulsive drama of secrets and lies. Nothing is clear, as everything of importance has taken place in ‘the past’ of the title. There are no helpful flash-backs, and we are utterly reliant on key details, withheld or revealed by the characters.

Although Asghar Farhadi’s screenplay is a complex piece of machinery, the story is totally convincing and aborbing. All the heartbreak and friction are suspended in a sublime moment at the close, giving us one one of the most powerful and moving endings in cinema history. The Past is released at the IFI and selected cinemas. Do not miss it.

Paddy Kehoe