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'A Separation': Family ties, undone

In this film image released by Sony Pictures

In this film image released by Sony Pictures Classics, Leila Hatami, left, and Peyman Moadi are shown in a scene from "A Separation." Credit: AP

Next month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce that "The Artist" or "The Descendants" was the best picture of last year, a conclusion that will be disputed, but most fiercely by those who have seen "A Separation."

An Oscar nominee itself for best foreign film and best original screenplay, Asghar Farhadi's emotionally epic movie is not just a masterpiece dramatically, it is a movie dramatically of its moment. As politicians talk glibly of attacks on Iran, "A Separation" is a proper reminder that Iran is not just an abstract construct, but a people, many of whom are as oppressed by and resistant to their theocratic regime as the rest of the civilized world.

It will make people uncomfortable, as it is intended. When Farhadi accepted his Golden Globe a few weeks ago, he said he came from "a peaceful people." He did not add, "just like you," but he might have, because fraternity is the subtext of his film.

Not everyone in Iran has quite the catalog of problems of Nader (Peyman Moadi) and his wife, Simin (Leila Hatami), who have arrived at a place of no resolution. Simin is dead set on getting out of Iran, while Nader -- whose father has Alzheimer's and can no longer care for himself -- refuses to entertain the idea. Under Islamic law, Simin cannot take their daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi, the director's daughter), without Nader's consent, which he refuses to give. When Simin walks out, she leaves Nader with daughter, father, an untrustworthy housekeeper (Sareh Bayat) and a situation that plummets into a series of calamitous chapters.

"A Separation" is remarkable in its construction, a kind of Joycean synthesis of life compressed into the story of a single family, with whom their fellow humans will sympathize, regardless of nationality, ethnicity or political persuasion. OK, the mullahs won't like it. Or their Western counterparts. But the rest of us will carry it around like a string of worry beads.

PLOT A wife wants to leave the country to improve her daughter's life; her husband has to care for his Alzheimer's-afflicted father. RATING PG-13

CAST Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Sarina Farhadi


PLAYING AT Malverne Cinema 4, Manhasset Cinemas, Cinema Arts Centre, Huntington

BOTTOM LINE A stunning film whose simple premise explodes and radiates into a galaxy of unforeseeable complications, conflicts and emotions. (In Farsi with English subtitles)

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