Iranian director Asghar Farhadi followed his critically acclaimed 2006 drama 'About Elly', with 2011's 'A Separation', winner of an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. His latest offering arguably matches its predecessors, examining the increasingly disjointed life of a suburban French family, led superbly by an impassioned Berenice Bejo but with excellent performances throughout.
Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returns to Paris to finalise his divorce with Marie, played by Bejo in a remarkably contrasting role to her light effort in the Oscar conquering 'The Artist'. Ahmad finds Marie now living in their old house with her new partner Samir (Tahar Rahim), whose son also stays with them, along with Marie's two daughters. The relationship causes unease for the children, with Marie's eldest daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet) particularly reticent.
Much like Ahmad, Samir has difficulties with his former partner, albeit in significantly different circumstances. These details are slowly revealed, in a manner that envelops and embroils Ahmad (and the viewer) into proceedings, while equally giving insight to Lucie's troubles. Issues of guilt and regret rise uncertainly as the complicit nature of both human action and inaction are considered over the course of the film.
The tragic way in which the story unfurls (continuing to its final moments) could be considered by some as tiresome but it seems more appropriate to deem it masterful - Farhadi's directorial touch is deft despite the inherent melodrama to his screenwriting. There are certainly moments of explosive emotion but it is the undercurrent of quiet intensity, especially from Mosaffa and Rahim, that drives the film forward in such an engrossing fashion.
'The Past' is out in UK cinemas now, through Artificial Eye.