The Past (15)

Film image

The ViewCambridge Review

StarStarStarStarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner28/02/2014

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 130 mins

Writer-director Asghar Farhadi's follow-up to the Oscar-winning A Separation is an intensely gripping emotional drama with a superb script and a trio of terrific central performances from Berenice Bejo, Tahar Rahim and Ali Mossaffa.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, The Past stars Ali Mosaffa as Ahmad, an Iranian man who returns to France when his separated wife Marie (Berenice Bejo) asks him for a divorce, so she can move on with her new partner, dry-cleaner Samir (Tahar Rahim). To Ahmad's dismay, Marie has not booked him into a hotel and instead expects him to stay in the house she shares with Samir and their three children from previous marriages, including Samir's young son Fouad (Elyes Aguis) and Marie's 16 year old daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet).

Marie's motivations soon become clear: she has become exasperated with Lucie's recent behaviour and asks Ahmad to see if he can talk to her and find out why she has suddenly become so angry. Meanwhile, Ahmad's presence exacerbates tensions within the family, particularly when he discovers the full extent of their situation, namely that Samir is still married and that his wife is in a coma.

The Good
Farhadi is a skilled director of actors and he duly coaxes terrific performances from all three leads, as well as each of the child actors. Bejo is superb as Marie, a complex and flawed character who's not above both manipulation (such as her deliberate failure to book Ahmad a hotel) or taking her suppressed anger out on the children, exploding at the two youngest ones for minor annoyances.

Mosaffa is equally good as Ahmad, a kind-hearted man who has an easy rapport with the children, which in itself provides further tension, since Lucie doesn't appear to get on with Samir. Similarly, Rahim is excellent as Samir, who's trying to do the right thing under difficult circumstances and Burlet has a good line in teenage stroppiness as Lucie.

The Great
The skilfully written script makes the audience work hard to suss out the complex relationships, deliberately withholding which, if any, of the three children might be Ahmad's, for example. It also exerts a tight emotional grip throughout, ratcheting up the tension before delivering a series of heart-wrenching twists and revelations.

In addition, the film is brilliantly photographed, with Farhadi and cinematographer Mahmoud Kalari confining the action to mostly interior shots, which heightens the sense of tension and claustrophobia. He also effectively uses symbolism in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, such as an early shot of Ahmad and Marie failing to communicate through a plate glass window that divides them at the airport.

Worth seeing?
The Past is a powerfully compelling drama that exerts a tight emotional grip, thanks to a superbly written script, assured direction and terrific performances from Bejo, Rahim and Mosaffa. Highly recommended.

The Past has been reviewed by 1 users
image
01 Focus (15)

Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro

image
02 Selma (12A)

David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth

image
03 Far from the Madding Crowd (tbc)

Carey Mulligan, Tom Sturridge, Matthias Schoenaert...

image
04 Chappie (tbc)

Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley

image
05 A Most Violent Year (15)

Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo

Content updated: 24/11/2017 09:28

Latest Film Reviews

Film Blog

Urban Pundit

Keep up to date with everything in film and cinema at Urban Pundit, the exciting new blog.

Film of the Week

The Conjuring (15)

Hugely enjoyable, genuinely scary horror flick that provides a welcome throwback to classic 1970s chillers, thanks to impeccable production design, a superb script, powerfully atmospheric direction, intense set-pieces and terrific performances.

Latest Close Up

Noah Baumbach Interview

The Frances Ha director discusses co-writing the script with Greta Gerwig, shooting against the backdrop of New York and the real lives of the city’s people, Greta Gerwig’s performance, the music in the film and the picture's visual style.