The latest masterpiece from Iran, Asghar Farhadi's A Separation shows how terribly complex the Iranian society is. In that, it is honest and true. Not every one would be interested in what happens in Iran though. What makes this film great is that it could have been a story about Kashmir or Afghanistan or even late 18th century France before the French Revolution.
Usually, a situation of crisis is shown with crafty story telling techniques. If you want to show how the British were terrible when they ruled India (as many films pertaining to the freedom struggle tend to show), you show some of them beating feeble Indians or some one sporting a nasty look like Captain Andrew Russell in (the wonderful) Lagaan. It pushes forward the story but is often manipulative, or the easier route.
There is little dramatic affect in this film. The first scene establishes the two want to separate because of not any domestic hostility or because of each other but they do want to separate because Iran is not viable any more for the mother to bring up her child and the father cannot leave his own ailing father. It is daily, real and yet not overtly dramatic situations like these which are highlighted. Financial and social constraints means a wife lies to her husband for not any devilish intent but because she wants to earn money.
The second, more poorer family shown has the man very agitated a lot of times. The scary part is the male protagonist in the film, Peyman Moaadi playing Naader, could become like this other family in 5-7 years time emotionally and financially as laws prevailing are redundant enough to enforce fines or be behind bars as it does on Naader despite no real faults of his.
Where the people's freedom is curtailed by imposition of too many religious, social and every other rules, their life keeps deteriorating if they decide to live on in that place. Some, like Naader can't leave though.
The separation of a family for no real fault of theirs leaves an impact. How many such families have been separated? How many more people have go to hell daily as they try to lead normal lives? It is a point well established through the film.
A Separation is Iran's Nomination for the Foreign language category for the Academy Awards. With Iranian directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof jailed in recent times, this film gains special significance and I wouldn't be surprised if it wins the Award itself. It could easily win on merit itself though given it is far better than some of the previous oddball selections the Academy tends to pop up in this category.