Star rating – 8/10
This painful, Iranian family tragedy won many awards at the Berlin Film Festival, and is poignant and very touching. The story starts with a middle class couple who face a dilemma. Simin (Leila Hatami) wants to take her 11 year old daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) abroad so that she has more of a chance to study and grow up in a less oppressive society for her gender. Her husband Nader (Peyman Moaadi) refuses to accept the plan, as he feels the understandable filial weight of obligation to look after his elderly father, who lives with them and has Alzheimer’s.
Simin leaves to go to stay with her mother, with her daughter staying at home with her father and grandpa. Nader hires a woman to look after his father and to do the housework whilst he is at work. But things start to go very wrong as the woman, who is pregnant, has to go to the doctor’s urgently, and leaves the old man tied to his bed.
This is an almost Shakespearian tragedy, but without a real villain. Director Asghar Farhadi shows each character in the piece to be human, fallible, and with a great sense of either moral or religious duty and sometimes both. It is painful, and very convincingly acted by all. Special mention must go to Sarina Farhadi playing the daughter, torn between the parents she so loves, and watching their actions tear themselves, and unwittingly others too, apart. It almost feels like watching a documentary in places it is so real. And there are no saccharine filled happy endings here, just a very moving and intelligent film, which explores complex religious, gender and class divisions in great detail.