Jodaeiye Nader az Simin
starring Peyman Maadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseini, Sarina Farhadi
written and directed by Asghar Farhadi
by Angelo Muredda In Armond White's latest "Better-Than" list, the champion of surreal juxtaposition pits Asghar Farhadi's A Separation against Joe Cornish's Attack the Block and finds the former wanting. "Action vs. Talk," he summarizes, in the poetry of tinyurl. Apart from the arbitrary matchup he stages between two very good films about getting to know your neighbours under the harshest of circumstances, White isn't completely off the mark. I won't defend his trite claim about A Separation's alleged "Iranian didacticism," but the film certainly is voluble. Farhadi wears his dramaturgy on his sleeve, opening with a carefully trained two-shot of middle-class couple Nader (Peyman Maadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) at divorce court, parked in adjacent chairs as if settling in for a parent-teacher interview. They face us directly as they make their respective cases to a bored, unseen auditor: Simin wants to emigrate to the West; Nader refuses to leave his dementia-suffering father behind or grant his wife permission to leave with their eleven-year-old daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi, the director's own daughter)--more an effort to stall their separation, it seems, than an arbitrary flexing of his patriarchal muscle. Voluble, as I said, but not verbose. It's a provocative and deceptively straightforward setup, promising naturalism via Maadi's and Hatami's easy rapport while undercutting it with the artifice of their situation. Though the judge is unmoved by either side in this rhetorical showdown--"My finding," he tells Simin, "is that your problem is a small problem"--the stakes of this "small" quagmire, which is also a national and a gendered one, are made painfully clear to us by the couple's impassioned performances.