Film Festival Review: The Past
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
If you saw the great Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, you’ll know he’s a master at exploring the human dilemma: the crises we find ourselves in, despite our best intentions, when there is no way out but to behave badly. That film gained some of its power from its wider cultural context: secular liberals and conservative Muslims, young and old alike, were all shown to have no easy path through the complexities of life. So how does Farhadi’s brand of storytelling work when you strip away that cultural weight?
The answer: just as brilliantly. This time, the dilemma is entirely domestic, as a French family, and those moving into and out of it, struggle come to terms with each other. There are no bad guys; on the contrary, everyone does their very best to behave well. And yet things just keep getting worse. Over two hours plus, no one involved in this film puts a foot wrong. The acting is charismatic and deeply believable, the story unfolds seamlessly, with a genuinely distressing lack of easy solutions, and the whole thing looks terrifically real. You know how we all live in a messier house than you almost ever see on screen? This one gets it right. The only thing wrong with The Past, for me, is that now I’m wondering if I really want to see any other films for a while. None of the others, surely, could be as good as this.