Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi, here working in Paris, sticks close to main structural device of his breakout hit A SEPARATION/’11. Like a theatrical director progressively lifting scrim curtains on stage, he methodically uncovers long-held personal secrets to ricocheting emotional effect both within the film and on what we think we know. This time, a separated husband returns to France after four years in Iran to finalize his divorce; then winds up injecting himself into the complicated current affairs of his (near) ex. Unhappy kids from her previous marriage, plus a new boyfriend with a comatose wife & his own worrisome young son. All superbly cast, with the tough little brat of a kid 'acting out' in a painfully believable manner both heartrending and annoying. Farhadi trusts his audience enough to run a slow fuse on developments, but can’t quite hide a sense of enforced neatness in his dramatic design even as the plot grows more involving. Still, a film that reminds you of William Faulkner: ‘The past is never dead . . . Actually, it’s not even past,’ is worth a few missteps. Hopefully, Farhadi’s next won’t insist on making every character's hidden past as multi-layered as an onion.
DOUBLE-BILL: If you haven’t seen A SEPARATION, what are you waiting for? OR: For something completely different, try Tahar Rahim (the new man in this picture) in his stunning breakout pic, A PROPHET/’09.