From the director of A Separation.
Asghar Farhadi is a filmmaker that concedes compatibility and choice are not the only factors in a relationship breakdown. Poor decisions and weakness are also pitfalls of rational, intelligent people. Back in 2011, Farhadi’s A Separation was a phenomenal critical success, becoming the first Iranian film ever to win an Academy Award and a Golden Globe and propelling the director into the global cinematic arena. That film explored escalating tension amidst inadequate communication and misunderstanding. Farhado’s latest film, The Past, probes similar themes, while also suggesting that not all perceived bad decisions are ultimately wrong for for us.
Returning to France to finalise his divorce procedure, Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) meets his soon-to-be ex-wife Marie (Bérénice Bejo) at the airport. Marie suggests that Ahmad stay at her home rather than a hotel, as her two children (not from her marriage with Ahmad) would enjoy his company during his short visit. She fails to mention Samir (Tahar Rahim), her new partner from whom she has become pregnant. Ahmad’s presence generates evident strain on the household, not only between Samir and Marie, who both recognise Marie’s lingering feelings for her ex, but also between Marie’s children, who perceive Ahmad as a stronger father figure than their mother’s new partner.
There’s a refreshing unsettledness to Farhadi’s work that distinguishes his films from the maddeningly numerous kitchen sink dramas that cinemas are relentlessly assaulted with every year. The Past is dour, but not for the sake of dourness. There are filmmakers that conclude grim as inherently compelling drama, when it simply is not. Like A Separation, Farhadi’s new film elevates a potentially sluggish idea with captivating characters, magnetic dialogue and lack of solution that rings genuine to Ahmad, Marie and Samir’s situation.
The film convolutes problematically during the second half, and shifts focus unnecessarily. The rigid energy evolving around the knotty families is an exciting enough conceit, and Farhadi directs the three central actors so fantastically that the slight shift in direction is glaring, unwelcome and unnecessarily melodramatic considering everything that has come before it. The Past draws comparison to A Separation not only because of Farhadi’s involvement, but as a result of a similar creative and thematic drive. This film is certainly not as impeccable as the former, but it is nonetheless a finely made, gripping piece of cinema.
DVD Extras: Interviews with Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa and cinematographer Mahmoud Kalari + Theatrical Trailer
The Past is currently available on DVD from Madman Entertainment. For more Reviews, click here. If you’re digging ReelGood, sign up to our mailing list for exclusive content, early reviews and chances to win big!