I could make a comment on how, if you’re Ashgar Farhadi, you gotta be feeling the heat after your last picture (A Separation) won the foreign language Oscar and you got a rare non-English nom for writing.
But if you’re Ashgar Farhadi, you’ve made a half-dozen or more films, all pretty much hitting it out of the park.
And so we come to The Past, another Dickensian tale of people who are just a little bit crummy.
I can’t actually remember now if A Separation was populated by crummy people. There were some, of course. I think I called them “flawed”, which would be a good summation of the characters in The Past.
But on reflection, I’m thinking they’re just a little bit crummy. For example, we have Berenice Bejo—looking fabulous, I should say—who has called in her husband from Iran so that they can get a divorce. They’ve been separated for years, but she wants to re-marry, and he opts to come in person to sign the papers in court.
He’s been gone for a while, and she’s been living with a new man and her son for a few months, since the man’s wife “got sick”. Meanwhile, her older child, a teenage daughter, is increasingly estranged from her and clearly missing the presence of the soon-to-be-ex, while hating the new boyfriend.
So, Bejo’s character is pretty self-involved and not really getting why the teen is upset. The teen is upset and not telling anyone why. (In American movie, it’d be because the new boyfriend had made a pass at her; nothing so pedestrian here.) The two men are sullen, with the soon-to-be-ex having deserted the family years ago, and the new boyfriend with a wife still in the hospital.
Yeah, about the wife in the hospital: She’s the MacGuffin, after a fact. Her story comes out—not in flashbacks, but in reminiscences by the other characters, that leave room for doubt as to what the whole truth is.
Everyone has sinned. Nobody seems to have sinned quite a badly as they think.
Ultimately, we’re not really responsible for what others do, I guess, but it can sure feel that way.
Much like A Separation, this movie starts out slow, pedestrian even, and then involves you more and more in the details, defying you to come to conclusions about the characters. Judge not, lest ye be judged, it seems to say.
Well, I’m a regular Judgy McJudgerton and I say, they’re all kind of crummy. Even the five-year-old.
Good movie, though. The Boy was, I think, less taken with it than I was, but liked it nonetheless.