Film / A Separation

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A 2011 Iranian drama about the pair who decides to separate on the ground of their irreconcilable goals: Simin wants to leave Iran in order to give her daughter Termeh a chance to grow up in a less restrictive culture, whilst Nader believes his primary obligation is to care for his father, who suffers from Alzheimer disease. The film subtly comments on cultural and psychological differences by confronting the two main characters with another married pair with less education and more traditional worldview - Hodjat and Razieh. Apart from all that, it is a compelling crime story full of suspense and plot devices characteristic for Agatha Christie's books.

Examples of tropes included:

  • Ambiguous Disorder: Razieh mentions that Hodjat is suffering from some kind of mental illness (without specifying what it is) to explain why he is so quick to anger.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Nader is not punished for Razieh's miscarriage, which was most likely not his fault, but he and Simin are still separating. Their mourning clothes as they wait for Termeh to make her decision also indicate that Nader's father has died.
  • Book Ends: The film opens and ends in a family court.
  • Buy Them Off: Simine sees this as the ideal solution. In fact, Hodjat and Razieh are okay with this - but Nader sees paying the money as an admission of guilt and refuses.
  • Daddy's Girl: Termeh, who seems to get on better with Nader than with Simin.
  • Darkest Hour: The film hits this when Termeh is forced to lie for her father's sake. Then she is dubbed a "killer's daughter" by Hodjat in her school, causing her to be ostracized by her schoolmates. Then Mrs. Ghahraei unceremoniously bows out of the conflict and refuses to meet with Nader again. Eventually Simin pulls out a red card and forcibly takes Termeh to her mother's house, leaving Nader all alone and still sued for the miscarriage.
  • Death Glare: Somayeh does this to Termeh at the end, after the truth about the miscarriage is revealed.
  • Divorce Assets Conflict: Averted - Simin does not want to retain any material possessions with the exception of a couple of books.
  • Feuding Families: Nader and Simin vs. Hodjat and Razieh, as a result of unfortunate conflict about the old man.
  • Fiery Redhead: Simin.
  • Foreshadowing: Near the beginning of the film, Nader tell Termeh that her teacher made a mistake with her homework, and says that it's better to be marked wrong than to be wrong. Later, his refusal to admit that he had anything to do with Razieh's miscarriage prevents the story from being resolved quickly and in the end means that the families will never come to any agreement. But hey, he never confessed any guilt, right?
    • A more traditional example would be the scene where Razieh is escorting Nader's father from the street. The film then cuts to Nader, Termeh, and Somayeh playing a tabletop game, while Razieh is painfully clutching her stomach. She even faints when she is taking the bus home. It is later revealed that she is hit by a car after taking Nader's father to safety, and the event is probably the true cause for her miscarriage.
  • Follow in My Footsteps: Simin and Termeh.
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Nader.
  • For Want of a Nail: Had Simin not try to emigrate, her relationship with Nader wouldn't break down. Had their relationship not break down, she wouldn't try to leave the apartment, thus forcing Nader to look for a caretaker for his father. He he not try to hire a caretaker, he wouldn't be involved with Razieh, whose family hold a very traditionalist view of the world and who will sue him if there is as little as a prick of an evidence that he caused problems to her, which he may or may not do. Had he not do the problem and admit that he may have a part, there wouldn't be any suing and blaming and all the mess impacting Termeh, her teacher, and others...
  • From Bad to Worse: The film can be summed up as a simple divorce case that snowballs into a community-shattering trouble because they just so happen to hit the wrong notes all over the place.
  • The Fundamentalist: Hodjat and Razieh.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: All over the place. All of the characters wind themselves deeper and deeper into moral dilemmas where they struggle between their faith, their family obligations, the law, and the truth.
  • Harmful to Minors: Termeh and Somayeh, but especially Termeh, considering that she is young enough to still be considered a child but old enough to process what's going on.
  • Higher Education Is for Women: Simin, who despite her mounting familial problems and possible emigration does not let them hinder her taking classes.
  • House Husband: Nader.
  • Missing Mom: Simin for Termeh, for quite some time.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Razieh. In fact, some (but not all) of the conflict could have been stopped had she openly reveal that she has a pregnancy.
  • Never My Fault: Nader refuses to admit that he could have caused Razieh's miscarriage, and in fact won't accept responsibility for anything that happens in the film. He eventually gives in near the end, but by then information has leaked that may prove of his innocence.
  • No Ending: The film does not reveal whether Termeh will emigrate alongside her mother or stay with her father.
  • No Woman's Land: Downplayed. Hodjat has some very backwards views, as does Razieh, and Simin wants to raise Termeh outside of Iran. However, women are not portrayed as downtrodden or without rights in any way.
  • Papa Wolf: Hodjat. So much that he not only tries to sue Nader for his baby's miscarriage, he calls Termeh a killer's daughter in front of her entire schoolmates just to force Nader to admit to the lie.
  • Punch a Wall: Hodjat again.
  • Rewatch Bonus: As noted in Foreshadowing above, the scene where Razieh is fainting inside a bus after her first day of work makes a lot of sense once the audience learn that she was hit by a car.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Mrs. Ghahrei, who draws back her comment about Nader being a good man and refuses to meet with him again after seeing one of Hodjat's angry tantrums and her realization that she is dealing with a psychopathic fundamentalist who will do anything to to achieve his goals
  • Solomon Divorce: Termeh's problem.
  • Taking the Kids: The entire reason why Simin and Nader's divorce gets messy as it is because Simin wants to take Termeh outside Iran no matter what, but the law requires that she has to get an approval from her husband, who understandaly doesn't want to, considering the present circumstances.
  • Think of the Children!: Simin wants to emigrate because she wants to raise Termeh in a less restrictive society.
  • Window Pain: Nader's car windshield is broken by Hodjat at the end, with the implication that he used his own body to do it as an act of penance.
  • Women Are Wiser: The women of the film all appear to be smarter than their male counterparts by virtue of trying to hold dialogues instead of breaking into tantrums whenever things don't work out as they like. Simin approaches the less-educated couple and willingly offers them blood money, her mother takes no hesitation to bail Nader out of the questioning room so he can gather evidences, while Termeh correctly deduces that Nader is lying when he said that he doesn't know Razieh is pregnant, without even forcing him. Even Razieh, who is responsible for flaming the conflict in the first place, eventually admits that she doesn't really know what causes her miscarriage when she realizes that the conflict is spiraling way out of control. Meanwhile, Nader and Hodjat both play dumb and do not accept any reasoning, dragging the conflict even further.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/ASeparation