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With an impending divorce and a new full-fledged relationship established, one woman is forced to deal with guilt, a sense of revenge, and the children involved in the situation.
Review (with Spoilers)
When I see a movie which is around 2 hours long it makes me wince, for like reading a book which is 400+ pages it isn’t the length that necessarily scares me, but the issue is whether it can really keep my attention. After all, with being accustomed to 90-minute films, which usually have a slew of issues just within that time frame, imagine 2+ hours! But, when it comes to The Past, the question is whether the film is an exception or shows why editing a film to be around 90 minutes is the unofficial rule or standard.
Characters & Story
Flying in from Iran is Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) who has come to France in order to finalize his divorce from Marie (Berenice Bejo) who he has a rather complicated relationship with. You see, he left her four years ago and in a way, he didn’t just leave her, but also her two children from a previous relationship who he seemingly was a father figure to. Something which Marie takes advantage of because her eldest Lucie (Pauline Burlet) has been acting strange lately. She has been staying out till 11, seems to never want to be home, and we learn the main reason has to deal with Samir (Tahar Rahim), her mom’s new boyfriend.
And over the course of the movie we learn about the complexity of Marie and Samir’s relationship which affects her two kids; Samir’s son and wife; as well as someone who helps him at his dry cleaners. Making for what is a drama genre film, but with a slight edge of mystery to it, though without a thriller element.
It is rather hard to put into words where to exactly begin with praise, so we’ll talk about the story first. The film gives life to the complex issue of moving on from a past lover without making it overdramatic with things thrown, “You left me!” and all the fodder usually written into scripts to try to put an exclamation point on everything. This was an odd choice to me because with the film being two hours you expect that sort of drama, but instead, it seems to try to craft a story in which mostly everyone has a cool head, though of course jealousy, among other emotions, flares things up every once in a while. With this, it makes those rare moments of when everyone isn’t trying to keep their composure mean something, and makes each seemingly carefully chosen word noteworthy, for while there is no murder mystery or anything like that, the characters’ human nature show why they make the decisions they do.
For example, why did Marie not book a hotel for Ahmad and instead invited him to the home she just started sharing with Samir? Was it to see him close and intimate one more time? Show the life she made for herself without him? Or simply after him not showing up the first time she didn’t want to waste her time and money? Then there are a multitude of questions in regards to Samir and Marie’s relationship, as well as the effect it has on their kids. Samir’s son is only around 10 and is dealing with his biological mother in a coma, and this would be surrogate who was around before his mom attempted suicide. Then, with Lucie, you have a girl who for reasons revealed, can’t seem to stand to be in the same room as Samir. Leading you naturally to think the worse and arguably Burlet fends well for herself amongst the adults, even while her acting talent may not be on their level, or the script isn’t tailored to utilize her strengths. But, considering she is the catalyst for everything, I would definitely consider her to be casted well.
And in general, each actor does their part well. The chemistry between both Marie and Ahmad, as well as Samir and Marie, creates this sort of desire to see either man worthy of her. But with time you evolve past the whole #team nonsense and learn how intricate of a relationship she has with Samir, and how trying her relationship with Ahmad must have been. Showing that while 2 hours is a long period of time, writer/ director Asghar Farhadi seemingly planned to use each and every minute to tell a full-fledged, and complicated, story.
I will say, though, without any character having a flare for dramatics, I did have to pause the film sometimes because I did get a little bored. If just because the whole Lucie situation, which is the heart of the story, felt like it was dragged on too long. Which isn’t to say it isn’t worth it in the end, but as you watch you may check how far into the film you are to see if the big reveal(s) will happen anytime soon.
Overall: Worth Seeing
If you have the patience and the time, I think this is definitely worth seeing. The portrayals seek to not overdramatize a situation, no matter how dramatic it would be if you were to read them on paper, and with this, you get a sense that the idea here is to show humanity and not put on a performance. Add in a very intriguing story dealing with infidelity, stability, guilt, love, and how these things interact, and you get a rather good two-hour film which may test your attention at times, but I feel it is worth it.