Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi's fifth feature is an urgently shot courtroom drama designed to put you in the jury box. It opens at a Tehran judicial hearing where a quarrelsome husband and wife each make their case. Simin (Leila Hatami) has finally obtained official permission for her family to move abroad, but husband Nader (Peyman Moaadi) has apparently changed his mind. He feels obligated to care for his aged father, and, in order to leave the country, Simin is compelled to sue for divorce. When her petition is denied, she moves in with her parents; Nader stays with his father as does their daughter, Termeh. To look after his father, Nader hires Razieh (Sareh Bayat), who has taken the job without the knowledge of her devout, unemployed husband, Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini). A Separation then heads directly into a real crisis. Nader comes home to find his father's wrists tied to the bed with Razieh out on an errand. They have words; Razieh is shoved out of the apartment, falls down the stairs, and (Nader later discovers) winds up in the hospital. Turns out she was pregnant and has suffered a miscarriage. Thus the original case is subsumed in a larger one. Hodjat files a complaint, and, according to the law, Nader could be guilty of murder. With its two couples warring on two fronts on behalf of their offspring, A Separation is an Iranian analog to Roman Polanski's recent parents-in-conflict drama Carnage—but the stakes are much higher.
Hatami's heroine is drawn into a legal morass.
Opens Fri., Feb. 3 at Egyptian. Rated PG-13. 123 minutes.