Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Past

It's been a while since I've gone to a movie on someone else's suggestion; the Chlotrudis folk with whom I have often seen this sort of boutique-theater movie in recent years didn't seem to have quite so many outings of the sort in 2013 (and when they did, it was at a time and place which was tough for me to make after work), and I suspect that if I were to compare last year to the ones before it, I probably saw less of the conventionally respectable as a result. Fortunately, this was well worth it, a reminder that I really should get to Kendall Square, Coolidge Corner, and the like on my own a bit more.

I do admit, though, that I did wonder about one thing once the movie was over: It's made clear that Lucie and Léa are not Ahmad's kids within the film (even if some of the write-ups I've seen do identify them as such), but the timing seems rather strange: Léa looks to be five or six, and if Ahmad has been away four years, but was with Marie long enough to bond with the kids and marry her... Well, geez, how long did it after Léa was born did it take for Lucie's first marriage to fall apart?

Alternately, I could either be remembering some of the dates mentioned poorly or doing a terrible job of estimating children's ages. But Léa certainly seems younger than my seven-year-old niece, if not by much.

One other thing I found kind of interesting, even though it seems unlikely I'll ever have to deal with it myself, are the mechanics of getting a divorce. For Ahmad and Marie, it happens in what looks like pretty painless fashion, even if it did take them four years to actually get around to it. The question I wonder about is Samir and Céline, and whether it is easier in a legal sense to take her off life support than to file for divorce. That's ghoulish, and it's worth noting that writer/director Asghar Farhadi avoids considering this issue entirely. It probably makes me a bad person that I think this would be the set-up for a fascinating murder mystery.

Le Passé (The Past)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 12 January 2014 in Landmark Kendall Square 34 (first-run, DCP)

There are a couple of moments, toward the end of The Past, when it feels like writer/director Asghar Farhadi has drifted too far from where he started. This is not necessarily a huge problem, because what he's doing is still excellent; it's just natural to expect to finish where one begins. The feeling passes, though, as there's certainly satisfaction to be found in a more complex story that isn't necessarily obvious from that first piece.

Said piece is Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), who has just arrived in France from Tehran to finalize his divorce from Marie (Bérénice Bejo), whom he left four years ago. They are apparently still on friendly terms; Marie even wants him to talk to her older daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet), who is being difficult even by the standards of 16-year-old girls. When he arrives, he finds Marie's younger daughter Léa (Jeanne Jestin) playing with Fouad (Elyes Aguis), the son of Marie's new fiancé Samir (Tahar Rahim), and that's a bit more than he expected to have to deal with.

It's a crowded house, and one of the most wonderfully real things about the movie is that Farhadi takes that quite literally: With three bedrooms to be shared among six people, the adults spend some time rearranging things so that everybody fits to the kids' great frustration, a scenario that many whose families have gone through divorce and remarriage will find familiar. There are multiple repair projects going on throughout the house, and a shed out back storing the characters' actual baggage. It appears to have sometimes been hard to film in this place, but the way Marie's house reflects her life is a huge part of why the film is able to strike a chord.

Full review at EFC.

No comments: