Review: The Past (Le Passé)

One of the best films in 2011, ‘A Separation’, won countless prestigious awards around the world including the Golden Bear for Best Film, Silver Bears for Best actress, Best actors at Berlin Film Festival and an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film 2012. The Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s new film “The Past” was selected by Cannes Film Festival 2013, nominated by Golden Globe and was on the shortlist for an Oscar nomination this year as Iran’s entry.

“The Past” is Farhadi’s 6th film and his first film shot outside of Iran. It was entirely shot in a suburb of Paris under a French and Italian co-production. Farhadi doesn’t speak French and took this huge risk to direct a French language film and work in an entirely foreign environment. He cast his favorite actor from ‘A Separation’, Ali Mosaffa, and two other very talented rising stars, Tahar Rahim from ‘A Prophet’ and Bérénice Bejo from ‘The Artist’ – three absolutely amazing actors that are very true and natural, but at the same time awkward in this film.

Asghar Farhadi’s classic subject – a family in turmoil. Ahmad comes back to his wife Marie and step daughter Lucie after 4 years of absence. Instead of assigning a lawyer to proceed with a divorce requested by Marie, Ahmad decides to pay a visit to his past where he discovers a chaotic secret to Marie’s future with Samir. Marie, a chain smoking pharmacist mother of two daughters, is in between two very different men; Ahmad, the older adventurous from her past and Samir, the younger but serious owner of a dry cleaning service, and a future she is pursuing with uncertainty.

Bonding with Ahmad, Lucie, the teen rebel, lives with her guilt that a bad will has caused everyone’s destiny. Samir’s pre-school age son, Fouad, witnessed his mother Valerie’s depression, suicide attempt and coma, and refuses to go home with his father after he learned to live and become attached to Marie’s younger daughter Léa. Ahmad’s presence leads Samir and Marie to dispute, reveals the secret of Valerie’s suicide and, when Ahmad signs the divorce papers, the reconciliation of Marie and Samir. The kids are all under the same roof – another on-going past is awaiting them to base their uncertain future on.

The complication, the struggles, the coma. The past, the future and the past repeated again and again in a tragedy that a broken family is trying to survive, recover from, build on and live with. The film seems to be just a film of a story of a complex family, or a country in jeopardy like all Farhadi’s films are about, but for the first time he can tell a story without borders or boundaries with the advantage to shoot outside of Iran. Farhadi inspired by the story from a friend’s life, tells a tale of strength, truth and the future.
– Shumaï Chou