Cinema Review: The Past | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, September 23rd, 2021  

The Past

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Directed by Asghar Farhadi

Dec 18, 2013 Web Exclusive
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Quiet, introspective Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returns to Paris after four years to finalize a divorce from his wife, Marie (Bérénice Bejo.) To his discomfort, Marie intends for him to stay in her house, which she shares with two daughters from a relationship which predates Ahmad, as well as with her new fiancée, Samir (Tahar Rahim), and his five-year old son, Fouad. Almost instantly, Ahmad finds himself playing peacemaker between Marie, her teenage daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet), Fouad, and Samir. At the crux of the tension lies Samir’s wife, who has been comatose since attempting suicide eight months earlier.

From the opening shot, it is clear Farhadi is a highly skilled director. In one scene, Marie watches Ahmad through the glass security partition at the airport; they cannot hear one another, giving the former lovers a silent reunion. The moment Ahmad exits the security doors, the ambient noise of hundreds of surrounding travelers floods them. Throughout The Past, Farhadi capitalizes on an intense appreciation of sound to enrich the environment. He also demonstrates a masterful ability to infuse every shot with so much detail at just the right angle and proximity that one has the sense of being in the room with the characters every moment of the film. This is an intimate family portrait, and Farhadi’s deft direction offers an intimate viewpoint from which to watch.

As talented a director as Farhadi proves, the film could have benefitted from some tightening. Ahmad, the most interesting and dynamic member of the familial entanglement, disappears for much of the second half, and when this happens The Past loses steam. The romance between Marie and Samir is far less engaging than the history she has with Ahmad, or Ahmad’s paternal relationship with Lucie. It becomes hard to remain attached, as Marie and Samir selfishly disregard their closest family for a relationship which doesn’t often seem worth saving. The revelations Farhadi relies on to propel the story are not as compelling as he gives them credit. Still, The Past is a universal family drama unbound by nationality – regardless of language or location, Farhadi’s representation of daily family struggles is something which anyone will relate to on some level.

www.sonyclassics.com/thepast

Author rating: 4.5/10

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