Editor’s Note: The following review is part of our coverage of the 2014 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. For more information please visit jdiff.com or follow DublinFilmFest on Twitter. For an additional perspective on the film, please read Rowena’s review.
A very average melodrama of family affairs. Given the scope and celebration of director Asghar Farhadi’s previous film A Separation (2011) this was a huge disappointment. A man who abandons his wife in France to return to his life in Iran comes back when she requests a divorce. Ahamd’s wife Marie-Anne is now living with Samir, another younger Iranian man, and has set about redecorating the house they lived in. Samir’s young boy Fouad lives with Marie-Anne’s two girls, troubled teenager Lucie and wide eyed wonderer Lea.
The film is similar to A Separation in that it deals with relationships and Iranian culture, but in my opinion that’s all it has in common. It’s as much about fragmented relationships as it is about the confused participants. The family members don’t fully know where they stand or where to go from here. Dark pasts and secrets unravel throughout as the desires and hopes of the children and parents are dashed.
Given the scope and celebration of director Asghar Farhadi’s previous film A Separation (2011) this was a huge disappointment.
The irregular reliance of the helter-skelter mother figure Marie-Anne on the men in her life is seemingly not just cause for concern. Marie-Anne’s denial of her ability to stand up for herself, hold control over her hot temper and be the mother figure she should be is distressingly portrayed by the beautiful Berenice Bejo. Messy and ramshackle, her family home is a shell of what it used to be and holds a metaphor for what Ahmad did when he left her behind. Marie-Anne’s attempts to redecorate and thus physically cover over what used to be, is tell tale of her affair with Samir. Samir is married to a hospitalised depressive woman who failed to commit suicide.
The tangled web of stepping on other people’s toes goes round and round and round in circles as the characters fight the bit out. There’s too much yelling and displays of anger conflict with the lengthy discussions of how everybody feels and what their real motivations are. It’s not a very sophisticated example of a tête-à-tête of wills, but it does set itself up as such. Human and natural acting styles mirror what the audience can expect from each scenario. The almost bourgeois lifestyle attitudes allow for days of idle chat that gets nowhere until the guards come down and the fists finally come out near the end of the film.
The dialogue is soap opera in format. The cinematography is thankfully a lot more than you could hope for from your average soap opera and is very subdued and naturalistic. There’s plenty of drama’s that deal with family life that have been hugely successful recently, but I fear that this will only draw in the crowds because of the attention A Separation received. Asghar Farhadi is capable of so much more.
It deserves a reworking to either make it a lot darker and melancholic or perhaps going down the line of light hearted and simplistic. It’s trying too hard to do both at the same time and comes up trumps with neither.
Art-house because of its niche dramatic portrayal and it may be a festival honey and it’s not at all a mainstream drama format. It becomes plain and tiresome due to it lacking in relief comedy moments. It deserves a reworking to either make it a lot darker and melancholic or perhaps going down the line of light hearted and simplistic. It’s trying too hard to do both at the same time and comes up trumps with neither.
I find myself unenthused and watch checking half way through the run time, which is a huge insult as it hasn’t even developed into the darker plot yet. It doesn’t pick up pace and the continuous arguments are too banal for entertainment quality. The desire to shake characters into making a decision and sticking to it or perhaps trying to move on, becomes overwhelming. It’s hard to connect with the characters as they are so selfish and invested in their own states of feeing sorry for themselves. Dreary and energy zapping, it’s not the emotional tour de force I hoped it would be.
[notification type=”star”]20/100 ~ PAINFUL. Dreary and energy zapping, it’s not the emotional tour de force I hoped it would be.[/notification]