A Separation blows every preconception an audience has ever had about Iranian cinema out of the water. Female liberation, equality and morality punctuate a gripping, violence-free story of family, freedom and justice. Fresh from winning best movie at the Sydney Film Festival, it also scooped best actress and actor at the Berlin Film Festival, as well as the coveted Golden Bear for best film.

The film is an emotional portrayal of family struggle in a modern day, middle-upper class Iran. The story follows a married couple, Nader and Simin, as they face divorce and a custody battle over their 11 year-old daughter. Simin instigates the divorce, desperate to leave Iran to bring her daughter up in a less hostile world. Nader refuses to leave his dependant father who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Until they agree a compromise, the court refuses their divorce.

Simin leaves the family home and hires a deeply religious, pregnant carer to take over her responsibilities in the home, mostly looking after the dependant father. Razieh is overworked, unsure of her religious limitations and her family is struggling. When she leaves the father for dead one afternoon, coupled with a discovery of missing money, an argument ensues resulting in Razieh falling and suffering a miscarriage. A bitter legal battle ensues, twisting and turning around a swarm of lies and deceit.

Directed by Asghar Farhadi, it’s excellently cast and evident why the film has won many accolades. In particular, Peyman Moaadi’s character, Nader, is excellently played on screen. His struggle is intense and palpable and the audience can admire his fighting attitude, in the face of adversity at every avenue. A notable mention is also due to Sarina Farhadi, daughter of the director, for her emotional screen debut as Termeh, the daughter.

What’s even more enticing is the struggle the audience go through. Who do we trust? Who is the villain? Is there a hero? Who do we feel most sorry for? We are brought back and forth, questioning who to believe and who to root for up until the very last second. Nader’s struggle is relatable and almost universal to us, as well as a collective sympathy for the young daughter caught in the middle, willing her parents back together.

A gripping, fresh and enticing drama with an unexpected ending.

Patrick Hanlon