An Iranian husband returns to France and his estranged wife to finalize their divorce in The Past.
Marie Brisson (Bérénice Bejo) and her husband Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) parted ways a few years back, leaving Marie to raise her two daughters (from a previous marriage) alone. Ahmad returns to France and Marie to check in on the family and tie up all the loose ends surrounding the divorce that Marie’s been asking for. He finds that she’s taken up with an Arab named Samir (Tahar Rahim) who has a young son of his own. Marie’s oldest daughter, Lucie (Pauline Burlet), is distraught over, well, just about everything. She’s a teenager, and she’s slowly pulling away from Marie, staying out later with each passing week.
This French-language film is the latest work written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, who previously gave us the highly regarded A Separation. The two films share many similarities in both their approach and style. Both lay out a fairly simple story that slowly exposes deeper layers, leading the viewer to wonder where it’s all headed. With A Separation, the culmination was utterly jaw dropping.
The challenge to both films is that the setup can try anyone’s patience. There’s nothing all that intriguing about Marie’s story. She’s just another mother from a broken marriage trying to get by. Hers is a basic life in a modest home that’s barely big enough for her and the kids. She’s found another guy that meets her needs and who, not surprisingly, has his own issues. Unfortunately, unlike the previous film, this one doesn’t reward the viewer with a payoff that’s worth the wait. It hints, time and again, at possibilities that never turn into anything all that revelatory. Everything has a totally plausible and fairly mundane explanation.
This is another example that draws a clear line between film as an art form and film as entertainment. This is an extremely well-acted, well-executed piece of filmmaking. It’s also about as interesting as watching droplets of water slowly descend down a wall after a light rain. Long before they’ve reached the bottom, you’ve totally lost interest. I’m not entertained purely by the artistic aspects of a film. It needs to have a compelling plot to complement the rest of the piece. Dealing with issues most of us would view as rather typical doesn’t qualify in my book, no matter how authentic its presentation.
All things considered, this tediously slow story, coupled with an ending that provides absolutely no resolution or satisfaction, isn’t worth the journey.