‘The Past’ is a harder film to love than ‘A Separation’

Berenice Bejo plays a woman caught in a headache in "The Past." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
Berenice Bejo plays a woman caught in a headache in “The Past.”
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

‘The Past’
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Stars: Berenice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa
Rating: PG-13
4 (out of 5) Globes

Strangely, the modern world is lacking in classical-style dramatists who churn out works with the breadth and depth of a Henrik Ibsen or an Anton Chekhov. The closest we have is Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi. Someday soon his surprise hit “A Separation,” in which all-too-human mistakes lead to a series of increasingly troubling misunderstandings, will be a fixture of school curriculums. “The Past,” his hotly anticipated follow-up, probably won’t, which is not to say it’s a massive letdown. It’s a knottier piece, less satisfying and a little harder to sift through, even as if its cumulatively as gutting.

Like “A Separation,” it starts with a divorce. Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) arrives from Iran to finish the paperwork with Marie (Berenice Bejo), his Parisian wife, with whom he parted ways four years prior. He arrives just in time to largely observe some major theatrics. Marie’s new boyfriend, Samir (Tahar Rahim, the star of “A Prophet”), is married, but his wife has been in a coma for months, following a mysterious suicide attempt. The details of this event slowly start to come to the surface, exacerbating a situation that’s left them and their angry kids unhappy.

Much of the action in “The Past” takes place — as the slightly precious title hints at — in the past. The lack of instant agency in the film makes the drama both compelling and slightly infuriating, as the story keeps building and twisting while making its points more obliquely. It lacks the grace and elegance of “A Separation,” being as it rests on the very slow parceling out of information that keeps reshaping our perception of events.

That’s not a bad thing, mind; “The Past” just lacks the instant satisfaction of its predecessor, requiring of the viewer more work to enjoy. It’s still very enjoyable moment to moment. Farhadi isn’t a writer who forgets visuals, though they can be a touch heavy; the opening uses a thick glass at an airport to literally separate Ahmad and Marie, making bluntly clear the emotional distance between them. But he’s a whiz at shooting in cramped apartments, where tiny rooms create both claustrophobia and little comfort zones for each character to retreat to when the burden of interaction becomes too much. Farhadi remains a great who knows how to craft little worlds that slowly come undone. But despite its performances and thoughtful camerawork, “The Past” is more enriching to piece together in your head after than it is while in front of you.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Is #JusticeForAvaLynn a case of bullying?

On Saturday, the hashtag #JusticeForAvaLynn became one of the trending topics on Twitter. Users circulated the above photo of 5-year-old AvaLynn, posted by her mother…

International

Terrorism could spread to US and Europe in…

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said terrorism would soon spread to Europe and the United States unless it is quickly dealt with in the Middle East,…

National

Ex-Bitcoin official to plead guilty to Silk Road…

Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem has reached a plea deal to resolve U.S. charges that he engaged in a scheme to sell over $1 million of…

International

China's army changes tactics to prepare for war…

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China will spur military innovation and called on the army to create a new strategy for "information warfare" as…

Gossip

Joan Rivers on life support: Report

TMZ reports that comedian Joan Rivers has been placed on life support, "completely reliant on machines to stay alive." Rivers has been hospitalized since she…

Movies

What's new on Netflix in September

September has a supernatural theme for Netflix. UFO "documentaries" and the survivalist reality series "Doomsday Preppers" are among the new series coming to the online…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Wellbeing

VIDEO: Still not wearing sunscreen? You will after…

Sunscreen is possibly the most often repeated - and ignored - piece of skincare advice. But Thomas Leveritt took a different tactic. With a short…

Food

Twitter used to track down sources of food…

When Chicago health officials saw Twitter users complaining about local food poisoning episodes, they reached out on Twitter to those users and often ended up…

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…