The Past

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pastAnother weekend of movies opening that are the usual cliché crap – Ride Along, the buddy cop picture with very few laughs; and another Jack Ryan espionage picture that adds nothing new to the genre.

Yet it’s the second week you have to see a movie from Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi, who is proving to be one of the most interesting storytellers in film today.

This movie isn’t nearly as good as A Separation, but most movies aren’t (it won the well-deserved 2012 Oscar for best foreign-language film).

Berenice Bejo, who we all fell in love with in The Artist, is given a bit more dialogue here. She plays Marie Brisson, a French pharmacist who picks up her Iranian ex (Ali Mosaffa) at the airport, so he can sign papers to make their divorce final. For reasons you’re not aware of at first, she doesn’t book him a hotel. He is going to be staying at her house. That includes children from her previous marriage, and a new boyfriend (Tahar Rahim) that hangs around a lot. The pacing might be slow at first, but Farhadi knows how to let the story and characters evolve. Instead of the usual twist and turns, all of these ones seem realistic. You sit riveted as you watch characters that aren’t just one-dimensional, but often flawed in small ways.

There’s a rebellious teenager named Lucie (Pauline Burlet). She’s just amazing in this role, and it’s an interesting arc discovering things about her character.

There’s the much younger Lea (Jeanne Jestin), who cutely fights with the son of her moms latest boyfriend. That boy is played by Elyes Aguis. Since his look reminded me of Will Smith’s son in The Pursuit of Happyness, I thought about how much the filmmakers of that would’ve benefited by seeing this film first. It works so much better the way we see Fouad observe things with sullen expressions, but also with his own take on the family dysfunction around him. His character, as well as Mosaffa acting the way we want a smart adult to act, made me think of What Maise Knew – one of the best movies of 2013.

There’s nothing like watching a smartly written movie that is so well-shot. One interesting scene had a couple arguing outside a store, when we can’t hear what they’re saying, but merely witness an automatic door opening, to give us the sounds of passing cars from the street. Other times that can be a couple uncomfortably sitting at a kitchen table saying nothing.

When it comes to intelligent lines of dialogue, we get a character confronting an employee about a fight with a customer. I can’t say more for fear of spoiling anything, but instead of a scene with somebody punching another person out or smashing a vase against a wall – it’s two angry adults sternly talking to one another. How refreshing.

At one point in the movie, we learn of a comatose character. In the hands of a less talented filmmaker, the segments regarding her would’ve come off like a bad soap opera (is that redundant?). Instead, we just keep getting more enthralled by the layers peeled from this onion.

You’ll cry a little watching this. You’ll also think.

The movie might be a little slow for some people. Others might be turned off by the Farsi and French, with English subtitles. Don’t be. Head to the Hillcrest Landmark and support one of our great filmmakers.

This gets 4 stars out of 5.


  • Cinema Geek

    It looks like an interesting plot and the subtitles don't seem all that bad. Looks like something I would be interested in seeing. The addition of the movie review was an added plus. Thanks for that.

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