Today I saw A Separation, starring Peyman Maadi and Sareh Bayat.
Nader (Maadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) are a happily married Iranian couple headed toward divorce because Nader refuses to leave his Alzheimer-stricken father to move to a foreign country. Simin wants to go because she thinks better opportunities will be available for their adolescent daughter elsewhere.
Simin temporarily moves in with her parents as they negotiate, which forces Nader to hire help to take care of his father while he's at work all day. The woman he hires is pregnant and complains after just one day that the work is too much for her. They make arrangements for her currently incarcerated husband to take her place as soon as she can get him out of jail.
Unfortunately, he isn't released as quickly as hoped, so she continues to do the work of the house and take care of the elder.
Things take a turn for the worse with everyone when Nader and his daughter return home one evening to find the woman gone, some money missing and grandpa on the floor, having fallen out of bed despite being tied to it.
He is understandably furious, and when the woman returns he asks her to leave. She tries to explain she had to go somewhere just briefly, but the condition he found his father in shakes him up too much to allow her to continue care, so he again asks her to leave. She doesn't, and he also accuses her of stealing the missing money, which greatly insults her.
Finally, there is a physical scuffle (the audience only sees one side of it) and the next day, Nader and his wife find themselves at the hospital checking in on the woman.
I'll refrain from spoiling this any further, but the rest of the movie is a clever test of morals, religious faith and basic human decency.
It asks a question any of us could be someday faced with: when things escalate due the actions of everyone involved, whose fault is it when someone gets hurt?
The actors are fantastic in this film—if I didn't know better, I'd think they were all just folks from a typical Iranian neighborhood, giving us a taste of what life is like there.
As an American I found myself thinking about how the situation would've been different if it had taken place in an American household. As the daughter of an immigrant, I could relate all too much to the importance of honor, and traditional male and female roles.
At the end of the day, it's not the second-coming of film (as many have prematurely anointed it), but it is a phenomenal slice-of-life exploration in the same vein as 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days.