Review: The Past
Asghar Farhadi’s follow-up to the acclaimed A Separation will draw comparisons and contrasts, and it’s a bit unfortunate as it should not be judged against 2011 award winner that looms above.
The Past is intimate, intricate, and tragic, as a divorce is finalized between Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) and Marie (Bérénice Bejo) and both try to finally move on with their lives. Or, at least they try, very desperately, and sometimes not at all successfully.
The methodical, drawn-out tale follows the couple much of the way as they skirt the line between love and hate, with Ahmad visiting Marie in Paris and reuniting with her children. A new figure has entered into the picture though: Marie’s current beau and future husband in Samir. He is familiar too though, an Iranian immigrant like Ahmad with similar personality traits. He seems to be just one way Marie is clinging to the past.
When the rain isn’t falling, a cloudy sky looms over the characters, as both men, who are neither quite fathers nor husbands, yet together sort of make up a curious composite, look to play a role in Marie’s life. While the film strangely and not always smoothly shifts between Ahmad and Samir, tension builds slowly and steadily throughout.
It is a fearful and almost helpless decent for Marie as she confronts the two men in her life as well as her rebellious teenage daughter. Bejo is emotionally-arresting as the plagued woman looking to start fresh, eliciting sympathetic in moment, but evoking loathing in the next as her confused character struggles for some sense of structure and sustainable happiness.
A chronicle of love, marriage, dedication, as characters deal with the successes and failures of the path they have forged, The Past is an intensely-dramatic observation of a woman’s life, potent and full of meaning. The lengthy tale drives towards a somewhat abrupt and strange ending, but the process throughout maintains tension and unpredictability in what is on the surface, calm and order.