A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Separation is a powerful Iranian drama with mature themes, including marital troubles and miscarriage, plus lots of tense, angry arguing. There's some strong language (in English subtitles) and some adult situations. In one scene, a very religious woman must decide what to do when, while caring for an old man, she finds she needs to clean him, despite the fact that her religion doesn't allow her to see him naked. Though none of the content concerns are individually all that age inappropriate for younger teens, overall, watching A Separation is a pretty intense experience.
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What's the story?
In an Iranian court of law, husband Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and wife Simin (Leila Hatami) confront each other. She wants to leave the country to find a better life for their 11-year-old daughter (Sarina Farhadi). He wants to stay, mainly to look after his aged, senile father. Too stubborn to agree, they separate. Nader must hire someone to look after the old man while he's at work; he finds Razieh (Sareh Bayat), whose husband, Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini), is desperately in debt. Nader comes home one day to find his father on the floor and Razieh nowhere in sight. She turns up, making vague excuses. Enraged, he pushes her out. It comes out that she has now had a miscarriage. Thus begins a complicated mystery of who knew what, and when.
Is it any good?
At its core, A Separation is basically a standard potboiler -- it could have been ripped from the pages of a dime store novel. What counts is that talented writer/director Asghar Farhadi structures it in a culturally compelling and mysterious way, while balancing all the characters to avoid easily typed "good guys" and "bad guys." There are no winners or losers in this battle -- even Razieh's angry and frustrated husband comes across as wholly human.
Additionally, Farhadi carefully weaves timely social and spiritual issues into the film's fabric, such as Iran's complicated divorce system (as well as the complexities of marriage itself) and the limitations of religion: In one scene, Razieh must bathe the old man but feels she can't due to her beliefs. Most of all, Farhadi lets the audience decide. The opening scene is filmed from the judge's point of view, and the final scene leaves off just before a vital decision. (It's worth noting that all of this was done, miraculously, within Iran's strict censorship rules.)
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's arguments and intense situations. Do they fit with the movie's story? What purpose do they serve?
How do culture and religion play into the decisions the characters make? Does the movie portray their influence in an expected way?
According to this movie, what are some of the differences between Iran and America? What are some similarities? Do you agree?