The Past (Le Passé)

Watched: 14 February

Like his previous film A Separation, Asghar Farhadi’s The Past is concerned with a marital break-up, to a certain extent, although in this later drama the situation is far more complex than the one in that earlier, Oscar-winning piece. There’s a moral quandary at the heart of both screenplays, and you get the sense that Farhadi’s main aim is to engage the viewer in the rights and wrongs of the scenario and cajole even the most reticent into making their own judgements. Here there’s a love quadrangle, of sorts, involving a man named Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) who returns to France from Iran to finalise a divorce from his wife Marie (Bérénice Bejo, typically good); in the interim, Marie has entered into an affair with Ali (Tahar Rahim), a married man whose wife is in a coma. It’s this later part of the situation that really muddies the waters, especially when various characters realise they may be directly or indirectly to blame for certain acts that lead to (or perhaps relate to the cause of) the coma. It has very good performances and a strong screenplay that keeps you invested in the characters, though as with the director’s other work don’t expect a neat resolution. (***½)