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Screen » Film

Family Ties, French-fried

The Past is a great film, but could use a therapist

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The Past is a French film populated by Ahmad, a mopey but kind Iranian man; his soon-to-be ex-wife, a smolderingly beautiful and tense French woman; her teenage kid from some off-screen lover and a second child from another man, her morose lover; and his curly haired troubled son. But even with that crowded house, the film could have used one more character: A family therapist!

Jeez, French people sure have trouble communicating. The group of characters seethes with tension and depression—most which could be solved with a few hugs and open communication. Instead, their problems fester in muddy secrets and jealousies.

When Ahmad returns to France after a four-year hiatus—and ostensibly there to sign divorce papers—those long buried issues slowly bubble to the surface.

But really, with a therapist, all these misunderstandings and repressed frustrations could have been avoided and solved in a snap. Oh, right. But then there would not have been the fine film of The Past, in which the characters meander without the sufficient emotional tools to navigate them through their daily lives, yet, in spite of this wandering, the Iranian director Asghad Farhadi is always purposefully plotting forward the enticing storyline.

It is hard to provide any more specific plot points because to do so is to give away spoilers, as the entire film is the slow boil of these individual conflicts coming to the surface and revealing a past that has been buried. What can be said is that Ahmad is played with subdued kindness by the very fine actor Ali Mosaffa. There is still tension between him and Marie (actress Berenice Bejo), his former wife, a tension that does not go unnoticed by her new lover, who comments that Ahmad and Marie's relationship does not seem over. He says, in French, of course, that "no one shows up after four years and begins to immediately fight; that means there is unfinished business."

This unfinished business is both past and present—part mystery and part romance, all playing out in scenes that are all at once tender and tense.

Dir. Farhadi | Tin Pan Theater

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