A Separation (PG) 126 mins ****
When people in movies shruggingly say “it’s complicated”, they don’t really mean it. The business of this Iranian drama, the top prizewinner at this year’s Berlin Film Festival: now this is complicated. A young couple sit before a judge, hoping to have their separation papers signed. Simin (Leila Hatami) is about to leave the country, but needs a divorce if she’s to travel without her husband. Nader (Peyman Moadi) is unwilling to depart, as his father has an advanced form of Alzheimer’s.
With no-one else in the house, the job of caring for gramps falls to a pregnant acquaintance, but she wonders whether changing the old man’s underwear constitutes a religious sin, and soon has problems meeting her own responsibilities. Trouble spreads fast: the knock-on effects of this separation will encompass everything from the familiar (a split bin-bag) to the genuinely heartrending (the loss of two children).
Adopting a spare, even-handed approach, writer-director Asghar Farhadi lends the unfolding domestic turmoil the immediacy of a live news feed. His cast excel in pinning down potential sources of conflict: the examination of this household turns positively forensic in the second half, as what was once a home gets converted, more by accident than design, into a crime scene of sorts. It’s a tough yet hugely involving watch, skilfully shuffling our sympathies around a set of decent yet increasingly frazzled individuals: forget the robots this weekend, and give human beings a chance.A Separation opens in selected cinemas from today.