Take poetry. Take music. Add over-saturated, vivid, vibrant cinematography. What is not to love about this beautiful mélange?
So often poetry translates into imagery in our minds that is often difficult to do justice on the main screen. Poetry is art. To do anything more with it often feels like a disservice to it. However, The Color of Time makes me feel otherwise. I am so whelmed at this point that I want to go back into the dream-like cocoon the film built around me and never escape.
Poetry written with a honey-glazed rhythm, spoken modestly, shot like a dream, plays like a heartbroken yet optimistic tribute to life. Those are the words that come to mind if I want to sum up The Color of Time in a single sentence. Directed in parts by twelve directors, pieced together in a haunting, back and forth manner – like our memories. The Color of Time is a compilation of Pulitzer Prize winning poet C.K. Williams’ beautiful poems and a peek into human memory and the moments that define us.
Starring James Franco as the present day poet we are taken way back into his life at various stages of growth, the instance he started noticing the world around him, his experiences with love, loss, the women in his life at various stages, his mother (Jessica Chastain) and his struggle with his art. The film does not work on a solid movie-like plot but brings out the underlying message about how C.K. Williams found his calling as a poet. It is hard to say that The Color of Time is a very original and insightful movie and that nothing like it was ever imagined or made before. It is, in parts, very reminiscent of one of my all-time favourite movies, The Tree of Life. But don’t get me wrong, I’ll watch every film that’s made that is inspired by it. However, I know some critics that find these parallels (Jessica Chastain gracefully walking around on vast expanses of grass and sunlight pouring in through the trees, through her beautiful hair and her ever perfect features) mildly annoying. I get that but I’m not one of those people and The Colour of Time works for me as is.
Having not read anything by C.K. Williams before I was happily taken to find that his poetry is my kind of poetry. I don’t write poetry very much at all any more but it comes to me sometimes and tugs at my sleeve for it to be written; I’m always wary of it because I know that writing that writes you is often the dangerous kind of writing. What I took from this movie, why it mattered to me so much right away was the fact that I was able to relate easily to what C.K. Williams felt in those particular memories of his previous years.
I know for a fact that I’m not the only one and that the urge for writing develops unknowingly inside you when you are very small. However, what I also know right down to my bones is the aloofness, the queer sense of being amiss from your physical self that comes with it. The relative ease with which you can subtract yourself from your current situation and piece sentences in your mind is often a limitless luxury. And who can tell on you, really, especially if you’re a child.
C.K. Williams grew up in a very reclusive time and he reflects on memories that change you, forever. A fleeting embrace, the touch of someone’s palms, the rush from running and the lack of interest in the things your parent might want you to do. I want to say that James Franco is simply James Franco in this movie and I don’t mind that at all. It feels like a better progression to his character in his self-produced movies (Palo Alto, anyone?). Mila Kunis, who intermittently features as the present day love of his life, the mother of his child, has no greater role to play except being beautiful in that ephemeral way where you want nothing more than to spend the rest of your life loving her.
The Color of Time is a vintage, soft-spoken, visually eccentric and thoroughly overwhelming movie. It has some really good moments but others that you may have seen elsewhere before and might not do much for you. However, if you love wordplay built on loss and lament, love and longing, basically just life go ahead and dim the lights, settle in by yourself and give this film a watch.
For the longest while I’ve waited for on-request reviews and even then some of the ones I wrote never felt like they were doing justice. I felt tensed as I wrote those. I wasn’t sure what was expected of me. However, a complete stranger came along and explained why they felt so strongly about my reviews, sent me a bunch of movies they’d like me to write about and signed off as my biggest movie review fan. Not only does that flatter me but that fills me with a kind of inexplicable joy. So thank you, S for appreciating what I love doing best. You have no idea how much that means to me. No idea at all.
Matthew: “I was one of the insatiables. The ones you’d always find sitting closest to the screen. Why do we sit so close? Maybe it was because we wanted to receive the images first. When they were still new, still fresh. Before they cleared the hurdles of the rows behind us. Before they’d been relayed back from row to row, spectator to spectator; until worn out, secondhand, the size of a postage stamp, it returned to the projectionist’s cabin. Maybe, too, the screen was really a screen. It screened us… from the world.”
The Dreamers is the kind of movie I would give anything to watch once and then never again. It’s hard for me to explain why that is so, but in no way does that imply that it isn’t a great watch. The Dreamers is a film that makes me yearn for a life in France, in a stingy hotel in Paris, on well-paved streets that were walked all over by not so well-dressed people, in the 1960’s, at the tender age of 21, with nothing else to care about. That’s it.
It is simply an iconic representation of youth, of erotic love and passions of varying degrees, of the minds that lived through uncertainties but still found time to dream and to escape through cinema. We venture into France in 1968 through the eyes of Matthew (Michael Pitt), an American, doe-eyed, idealist young man away from his family – probably for the very first time in his life – who finds a whole new, enchanting world in the cinémathèque française.
We then meet Theo and Isabelle (Eva Green), a pair of twins that also frequent the cinémathèque and seem to be increasingly interested in knowing Matthew. The sudden interest and kindness shown by these French strangers immediately brings a feeling of belonging to Matthew and he’s quick to latch onto this hand of friendship – or so it seems at the start at least.
Sooner than later Matthew notices that Isabelle and Theo are more than just siblings and share certain intimacies and sleep together in the same bed. Matthew’s curiosity and vulnerability are all so natural and his attraction towards Isabelle from the first sight, extremely evident. When Isabelle explains that she and Theo are twins and that they’ve always been connected and part of each other, my heart soared. This might be one of those few movies out there that takes the concept of incest and doesn’t try too hard to justify it. Theo and Isabelle just are who they are and they know not a world without each other.
So when the twins’ parents head out for a long trip, Theo, Isabelle and Matthew burrow into a fantasy ménage à trois. They lose all idea about time and appetite and they only care about existing in dream-like moments. Matthew settles into this arrangement like a hand in a glove and the character development is brilliant. Matthew goes from the prim and proper guy who sat at the dining table with the twins’ parents, grateful for the wonderful dinner, always polite and promptly answering “likewise” (which is honestly the most American way of replying to well wishes) to the guy who felt no shame in sharing a bath tub with the twins themselves.
The extended depiction of this erotic cocoon that the trio build around themselves does a fantastic job of pulling you into something less important than the main story. Which is what, exactly? I found myself questioning that a couple of times. Yes, the controversy is there. Yes, I see that Matthew’s understanding of violence and France are still vastly foreign but honestly what are Theo and Isabelle doing about it that makes them any different from him? They’re all still voyeurs, hiding in that mansion, indulging in erotic exchanges and turning away from the reality. I don’t like to act as though I understand everything and I guess cinema is an art that even if you don’t entirely get, you can never fail at appreciating. But everything comes together neatly at the end when in the snap of a moment, Theo and Isabelle mature into people who can actually make a decision on their own. Matthew walks away to realize he might not want what they want with their life. That certain experiences, certain people only last a while and you take what they gave you and turn around and walk.
It would seem ridiculous to me if Isabelle actually ended up wanting a relationship with Matthew. That was not who she was and although she did the whole dance of a proper date with him, Isa and Theo shared the twin connection I find so intriguing and compelling and can never get enough of.
The references to timeless classics, the movie quizzes brought up at random points, the love for cinema greater than all else, those are the things I take with me from this movie. It also makes me question how little I know about black and white movies back from that time and as of now I endeavour to change that. The only way The Dreamers will get any better for me now is to go and read a review of it by the late Roger Ebert because there’s no way he could’ve missed reviewing a gem such as this.
Camp X-Ray is an almost masterpiece. It’s almost a good movie which also means it’s not a bad movie at all. There has been such a sudden rise in the number of semi-political indie films that have been coming out lately and they all seem to have that same flow but Camp X-Ray stands out. Just a little bit. I can praise this movie on several ends but I want to be realistic enough to tell you it’s not that great, either. You shouldn’t put down everything you’re doing and watch it right away. I want to openly admit that a certain scene made me weep in that ugly, private way you never want anyone to see. Not that movies don’t make me cry, au contraire, I cry during movies all too easily. I find it difficult to weep for people I actually know, but movie characters get under my skin with great ease. I live most of my life vicariously, bite me.
“…The man who committed these crimes has blond hair and blue eyes. These details are shared repeatedly in a litany of disbelief. Too many people expected the perpetrator of this crime to have brown skin and a Qur’an because we need to believe that there is only one brand of extremism. This is the world we now live in. We forget compassion. We pretend we are somehow different from those we otherwise condemn…”
I can’t help but wonder how so many instances in my life are such big coincidences. I ventured into Camp X-Ray knowing as little as possible – details about the cast, genre of the movie – and it was actually worth the while. To be able to enjoy a movie with as little adulteration from other people’s opinions is often the best way to be objective. Camp X-Ray is a concise movie in Camp Guantanamo where Muslim jihadists and supposed terrorists are restrained as detainees sometime post 9/11. The movie is mostly filmed from the viewpoint of Amy Cole played by Kristen Stewart who joins the military with the intention of being a part of something bigger than the small town she comes from. Cole doesn’t know what she has landed herself in and finds that things are not just black and white. She develops a peculiar bond with one of the detainees after he constantly jabbers away at her when she’s on duty. Cole and this detainee, Ali Amir played by Payman Maadi are the windows for the audience into both viewpoints. Behind the locked door and outside it. For the first 90 minutes I would say the movie plays out brilliantly. Not too overtly putting across ideas yet offering glimpses and leaving things to imagination. It can just as easily be argued that Camp X-Ray is more about Amy Cole and what she undergoes being a woman soldier than just about the injustice done to a certain type of Muslims, believed to be extremists. That being said, and now that we have the plot out of the way let me tell you why I love and don’t love the movie. Camp X-Ray is a movie about the terror after the actual terror has passed. It encompasses what many movies have done before but offers a different insight into it. The torture elements are not the highlights of the movie and are so few and far in between that they seem routine prison protocol, really. Even their emergency protocol when a detainee steps out of line involves taking the detainee from pod to pod, cell to cell, all night long for a week by plane. This definitely leaves the detainee disheveled and unable to sleep for that entire week. Yes, that is torture. Yes, like one of the soldiers says, “That’s brutal,” but really, I mean, we know for a fact that what happened in other places at the same time was much worse. Many documentaries and movies have been made about it and sold on just that fact alone. Audiences love a good cry. Audiences love seeing movies like 12 Years A Slave. I love Camp X-Ray obviously because of Payman Maadi. After watching it, I can openly challenge anyone that this man is capable of pulling off absolutely anything thrown his way. I am Team Maadi, forever. This is embarrassing and exhilarating to admit but I could only resist it so much. I love Camp X-Ray even more for Kristen Stewart. What do I say about her that hasn’t already been said before in reference to her Twilight image? I could say, that perhaps, I liked her very much in the Twilight saga but because I reached a certain age where everyone was making fun of the series, I had to cut down my feelings and join the herd. I could also say that I liked Kristen Stewart even before that but it’s hard for me to point why exactly. I can now. Kristen Stewart has long since been pushed around with everyone saying her face lacks expression. She has been ridiculed, used in memes to depict she can’t make one emotion look different than the other and in short, something that the character Bella was supposed to be which everyone suddenly had a problem with when it was portrayed on the big screen. I have wanted to talk about this openly for such a long time now and I feel like this movie opened the floodgates to my repressed opinions. If you’re uninterested about it, you can skip a paragraph. As anyone who read the Twilight love story at the age of 13, I fell in love with the books right away. As someone who grew up way too fast between 14-17 and saw what more can be done with genres like romance and horror, I knew I couldn’t love the series the same way ever again. I knew that it was meant for a certain age group with a certain mindset and I had clearly outgrown it. Why the books appealed so much to girls is because Bella made us feel it was okay to be average. Which is what Kristen Stewart was meant to be on screen. When you take a book which reads in the first person and you make a movie out of it, you simply cannot include countless monologues of this person. You have to draw a line and make your character come alive through their behaviours and interactions and even then you are compromising. So Kristen Stewart got caught up in playing an awkward, unconfident teenager who is being pursued by a very good-looking, gentlemanly vampire. Stewart became the girl most girls identified with but also despised. It was confusing and it took me a while to be done with my obsession with the books and the movies. Kristen received so much flak many years after the movies were done, which I’m not sure I understand entirely. Both the Breaking Dawn installments were remarkably successful at the time and we saw a more meaningful and expressive performance from her as a new-born vampire and mother. Where she went wrong was after these movies. Her choices and the roles she took up only went on to feed the mindset of people that she can only play a certain type of role and in short, cannot act. Some even went as far as to say she bagged the role of Bella Swan through nepotism. Who knows. In a tough movie such as Camp X-Ray, Kristen Stewart single-handedly hits the ball back onto the court of everything her haters splurged on. She expresses herself in scenes requiring minimal dialogues, she is bare in the sense that you can see that there has been no need for any makeup, she executes one of the most powerful scenes in the movie at the end with such finesse it’s hard to ever believe she was accused of being expressionless. It almost seems as though her acting abilities were on par with Payman Maadi, which is probably the biggest compliment I could hand out to her. There is a scene in the movie where the Captain asks her, “Are you a soldier? Or are you a female soldier?” What Kristen Stewart achieved in this movie is worth noting. Her character demanded her to fit into an environment where on duty she was supposed to be at par with her male counterparts but to be somewhat submissive when they weren’t in uniform. It’s a hard but true fact that this kind of unfairness is a part and parcel of being the gender minority in the military. My problem with the movie is the final crescendo. My bone to pick is that the movie was running at such a good pace and the last few minutes kind of goofed it up. Maybe certain movies need to be brought around full circle – to satisfy the audience, among other things. But that’s the thing about indie movies, sometimes they aren’t required to follow that. I can think of so many better endings. Now that I’ve assimilated all parts of the movie, I can say that the ending need not have been so hopeful. And even then the irony is, a part of the final crescendo moved me to tears and brought me to write this review. I would say, watch Camp X-Ray for the acting and for those sudden breakthrough scenes, but not so much for the plot.
So much has been said about this movie being a genius take on an abortion-themed romcom. I beg to differ. I would like to plead that Obvious Child is obviously so much more. Give me a chance to explain that in this review.
Obvious Child is easily one of the strongest directorial debut movies I’ve ever seen. I’m all here for the positives but I really need to explain a delusion people are having before I go ahead. Let’s take a second and understand why this movie is being heralded as ‘a cultural landmark’, ‘an honest portrayal of abortion’, and what not. I believe taking the taboo concept of abortion and trying to fit it in the genre of comedy, even romantic-comedy is far too risky. Far too delicate to play with. The first thing that comes to mind is, abortion is unpleasant, whatever may be the circumstances. Secondly, this movie is supposed to be funny? What can possibly be funny about aborting an unborn child? Nothing.
When you watch this movie keeping those thoughts in mind, and you see Obvious Child for what it actually is, I imagine you’d breathe out a sigh of relief. You’ll chide yourself for being ridiculous enough to expect a dark, slapstick comedy about a woman who isn’t prepared for a child, or a man who doesn’t know he got someone pregnant and now she has to go through it alone, or worse; rape pregnancy. When you see how effortlessly the plot unravels, all your apprehensions will fade to black. For the most part, Obvious Child is not about abortion. I cannot fathom why it’s being sold for what it’s not when it’s actually so good and should be recognized for that instead.
The story follows a twenty-something stand-up comedian named Donna (Jenny Slate) who has a queer teenage sense-of-humour and mostly ends up making jokes about her sex life, her stained underwear and other body parts related clichéd limericks. Donna brings to her act an emotional twist even though her jokes are almost borderline ridiculous. She is completely herself when she’s up there and that’s what nine odd people attending her show in a Brooklyn bar appreciate and enjoy. Donna’s boyfriend – also present at said bar – cannot appreciate having his private sex life being put on display for people to laugh at and breaks up with her. Or that’s the reason he uses while he has already started seeing someone else. Right from this moment, the movie puts you on the edge of your seat because it’s not easy to predict what Donna will say or do next. However, she is like any other twenty year old and drinks and drunk dials and cries herself to sleep with the aid of her best friend. Still no mention of abortions.
After this point, Obvious Child picks up pace as we see more of Donna’s life, her separated parents and her two best friends who sometimes have no boundaries. Donna’s stand-up comedy goes for a toss after her breakup and she is unable to make even poor underwear related jokes. All of this and the fact that the bookstore she’s working at is supposed to shut down only add to her miserable situation. Amidst everything, you see Donna brood, laugh, worry, overreact and it’s all so endearing. You almost want to hug her and tell her that it happens to everyone at some point and she’s actually doing pretty well considering everything going on. So when Donna meets a really nice guy at the bar, you have no problem when he wants to take her home. Even when they both are drunk and peeing on the road, really. Never before have I found this to be funny and don’t think I’m being morbid but halfway through the movie and there’s still no sign of a pregnancy much less a damn abortion. And I’m really enjoying the movie at this point and even laughing out loud, which is a rare but good sign.
Fairly predictable is the one-night stand and Donna’s reluctance at getting into anything further with the boy named Max who is albeit, too eager to get to know Donna’s hilarity. It’s adorable that Max is very much the opposite of her cheating ex-boyfriend, but it’s also rough that he’s the one who gets her pregnant. Leaving her with no choice but to visit the doctor and say something on the lines, “I would like an abortion, please!” as though she is ordering food at a drive-through.
What follows next are the simple and cute interactions between Max trying to woo Donna who is all too afraid and confused about someone being this nice to her. Not forgetting that she is scheduled to abort his child on February 14th and intends on keeping it a secret from him. Irony in this movie is immense but completely enjoyable. All in all, the movie takes a cutesy turn towards the end as Donna figures out how to deal with herself, her decisions and her love life. It’s amazing how she goes back on stage and makes fun of herself for getting into a mess. Again, Max who happens to turn up at the bar is not pleased to find out about this through her act and walks out of the bar. However, Donna is not perturbed this time as she knows how she feels about this and what’s right for her. How well she does on stage is an indication at how well she handles things that are not so right in her life. Her act goes pretty well despite mentions of an abortion and she has her shit together now. Figuratively and comically, of course.
Obvious Child is a movie that got promoted on a concept it wasn’t entirely intending to depend on. Yes, the movie handles the subject of abortion quite smartly. There are some brilliant depictions of the crisis Donna faces, for example, when she equates the amount required to get an abortion to her one month’s rent. Men like Max are not made-up, fairy tale princes but they do exist and sometimes they don’t know how to do the right thing, right away but they come around eventually. When you consider the fact that there is so much more to this movie it seems almost demeaning to hail it as simply ‘an abortion comedy’ on the lines of Knocked Up or Juno. The fact that the title of the movie was based on a Paul Simon song is enough to convince me that the makers of this film have more depth, understanding and insight than they are being incorrectly, if not unfairly credited for.
As the Oscar fever inside me is reaching its pitch and I have been literally gobbling down all the nominations, Spike Jonze’s Her made me pause, catch my breath and then want to write about it. While that in itself is truly something, I also felt like simply writing a review about this movie would not be enough. I’m not always very critical in my reviews as it is and you must understand this is more than just a story for me.
Set in the not-so distant future Los Angeles resembling a Shanghai skyline lives a man by the name of Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) – a lonely, sombre and soulful man just trying to pull himself together after a breakup with his childhood sweetheart and wife (Rooney Mara). Theodore is a calm and thoughtful man who writes personal letters for people as a part of his job at handwrittenletters.com. At the very start it becomes clear that Theodore is unable to move on. The frequent flashes of Catherine and their happily married life together paint us a picture of how different he used to be when he was with her. Now, Theodore is heartbroken and left to his own devices with divorce papers he hasn’t been able to sign for a few months.
Her has a very futuristic feel to it. Theodore runs all his daily technological chores with the help of his phone’s operating system. Theodore seems to be spending more time with his computer and his OS and we only see him interacting with the couple in his building occasionally on the elevator. So when he comes across a new artificial intelligence operating system that is designed to evolve according to an individual’s intuitive needs and requirements, he gets pulled right in. This step sets off the dominos to the most heartwarming and heart wrenching phase of his life.
The OS offers him a choice between a male or female and he chooses a female who then introduces herself as Samantha (voiced with a sultry, breathy humanity by Scarlett Johansson). Sooner than expected Theodore finds himself awed by Samantha and the way she expresses herself. There is something particularly attractive about the way she can communicate so clearly even though she’s only an OS. She helps Theodore to get out of his rut and experience more things than he ever thought he could. Samantha is also more than just your everyday Siri in the sense that she finds herself evolving everyday in her interactions with Theodore.
This brings me to one of the scenes where Theodore-blissful and elated, is spinning around in circles with his phone in hand, just trying to grasp and absorb all the happiness and exuberance he suddenly finds in his life with Samantha. Although that moment is supposed to depict joy, a certain intimacy that is shared by two lovers in a moment, the scene also paints a picture of loneliness and isolation. For a passerby who does not understand what Theodore must feel with Samantha, he is very likely to be termed crazy. That’s funny, isn’t it?
This is also the part where my movie review drifts into other territories. What might seem crazy to someone might be a perfectly acceptable way of life for someone else. While it is easy to condemn someone’s style of living, why can’t it be easy to actually accept it? We’re in the 21st century now, and I think we have all experienced those long stretches where you sat crouched, staring down at your phone, endlessly waiting for a message from your lover, anything, a validation maybe that would get you through the day.
Let’s take it a step further. When you don’t get to see the person you love as much as you’d like and your relationship feels like it’s entirely based on messages and last seen timestamps. Is that not real then? Would you like to argue how that cannot possibly take away the essence of your love and instead enhance it in a more revitalizing way. What happens when you see someone on a computer screen on Skype or on Instagram more than you do in person, does that somehow make it ‘not real’?
Then why should we be so critical about Samantha and Theodore’s love?
The genius of this film is that there is no technical reasoning about the limits of the OS, its potential or lack of it. That in itself makes you feel that maybe, just maybe Theodore and Samantha are destined to be. You start picturing Samantha’s husky voice over the phone as a long-distance lover on the other end, as human and as real as Theodore. Amidst it all, you still know that she’s an OS and that this is a love without any kind of physical presence or confirmations.
Is that enough?
Which brings me to the part where things in your ‘not so real relationship’ have actually gotten to a point where you have met the person to whom the voice belongs. Learnt how they touch their hair, not just the side of the bed they sleep on but also the way their body curves when they do. You’ve figured that aural sex would probably never equal oral sex, and there is something deeply saddening to be able to settle for the prior after having experienced the two. You return to your life and try to focus on being together whilst you are actually apart and leading your own lives. You call them and text them just like before, but somehow 25 text messages a day do not cut the deal anymore. It’s not enough. You try your hardest to explain that it’s not that you want more of their time but you just need more of the ‘real’ thing. What is the reason for this sudden longing? Why are you being so greedy? You don’t understand but it’s an unnerving worry that doesn’t go away and is difficult to hide when you Skype with them next.
This is something that Theodore and Samantha do not face. They’re not greedy; neither do they have unreasonable expectations from each other. Theodore loves Samantha and he is happy to just have her love him back, really that is all. When Theodore’s wife accuses him of always wanting to be in a relationship without having to face the challenges of actually being in one, Theodore is thoroughly hurt. But what I love is how he has faith, he knows that whether human or not, Samantha understands and it’s futile to ponder over what someone else thinks of them. Just like a normal relationship, they experience highs and lows, bouts of jealousy, passion and desire. Samantha does her very best to make Theodore feel at ease with the complicated relationship they have, Samantha makes it look so easy, that it somehow makes you wish your life could be so convenient.
As we all know in our deepest selves, stories like these will always have a tinge of sadness and soon enough things go sour and Theodore’s fantasy comes undone. It is heartbreaking to watch him disintegrate like that, for the second time. It is undeniably as real a breakup as he had with Catherine. He ultimately turns to his friend living in the adjacent apartment who also seems to have gone through something similar. What they share in that last scene, it is not some kind of glimpse into them getting together in the probable future, they share their pain. They are both intensely aware of their heart being mangled inside out and need some kind of reassurance that they are not insane. It is not a plea for human touch but at the same time, it underlines the fact that reality, tangibility will always be constant in the face of fantasy. Which made me think that maybe happiness, love, vulnerability are more closely linked to a certain kind of spirituality, an introspection, too. Maybe what you think is going to make you happy doesn’t necessarily need to have a physical form or structure. The intricacies of your lover can exist entirely in your head and still satisfy you if you truly trust yourself and what you want. I’m also not saying that will end well.
I suspect many people will see this movie as some sort of satire, a kind of deliberate mocking at our progressively technological lives which culminates in alienation from human touch and emotions. At the same time, the movie expands on the various aspects of social interactions as well and why sometimes disappointments and continuous failed attempts at trying to reach out to another human being could lead to us moving towards something less unpredictably volatile.
The movie does such a beautiful and delicate job at pulling us into the minds of its characters and what defines them. We are so accustomed to watching a love story with a cinematic feel to it, waiting for what will be the next move. Spike Jonze’s Her has stirred a revolution in the kind of care that is exhibited in showcasing human nature and its complexity. There is a scene where Samantha asks Theodore in complete innocence,”How do you share your life with someone?” and this question attempts to be answered throughout the movie. In an age of information overshare and also the convenience with which we can select what to share online and what to conceal, what is it like really sharing your life with another person? In that sense, whether it has a futuristic take or not, whether or not you watch Her 20 years later or even right now, it is in many ways timeless.
I have seen quite a few Pakistani films, and though the culture there is similar to my life, this is the first Iranian film I watched. I largely relied on the subtitles, except for the salaams and the salutations that are normal in everyday Muslim conversation but be rest assured this movie is relatable to anyone from any cultural background.
“A Separation” is an Asghar Farhadi film revolving around a Muslim family in Iran who get caught up in the Iranian justice system over an issue that initially seemed trivial but no sooner got out of control. Crisp direction, tightly held camera work and staged-play kind of feel to the acting are distinct features of this movie. As the very title suggests, the movie commences with the separation of Nader and Simin, the husband and wife over conflicting interests about their adolescent child, Termeh’s future. While both Nader and Simin might not have any grave problems in their relationship with each other, they both desire different things and therefore decide to part ways. What they don’t realize, neither at the beginning nor when things have already gone out of hand much later, that with a little patience and steady thinking they could’ve found reasonable middle ground. But we’ll get to that later, I suppose.
While Simin is a strongly opinionated woman in a headscarf, she believes her daughter, Termeh will not be able to achieve a steady future in this country. Simin wants the family to move abroad so that Termeh can claim a better education right in her formative years. Nader, on the other hand, is a man who is invariably and repeatedly caught in his own turmoil. His father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and is now in need of personal care and attention. Nader and Simin both have their own justifiable reasons for wanting what they want and right at the start you figure out that their own personal interests, too, somehow end up forming a part of what they desire.
Simin: “Does he even know you’re his son?”
Nader: “I know that he is my father.”
The movie commences with the divorced couple trying to get along with their newly separated lives. When Simin packs her bags to leave, Termeh decides to stick with her father. Nader, now left on his own accord is unable to take care of the daily chores along with his absent-minded father’s time-to-time requirements. He employs a house maid, Razieh to look after the work while he is away at work. Little did he know what that decision would lead to.
I’m not sure revealing any more about the story would be fair and would then let me label this review spoiler free. Also, I will tell you that the point of conflict strikes in very early on in the movie. When Nader gets himself into a situation that could affect Termeh’s life, too, Simin intervenes. The movie surrounds five characters, Simin and Nader, Termeh, and the house maid, Razieh and her husband Hojjat. The audience is offered a somewhat brief exposition of every character throughout the movie. Nothing about any of these characters is stereotypical.
Although Hojjat is an extremely short-tempered and aggressive man, quick to make loud accusations you realize that he, too, is facing his own demons in the form of unemployment, the visible horizon of oncoming poverty and a deep resentment towards people who are relatively better off. Razieh, on the other hand, who I loathed very much, is actually one of those extremely devout Muslim women, almost on borderline paranoid. Some of her accusations made me cringe but even then I realized where it’s coming from. When you believe in certain things too strongly, nothing anyone says or does will make little sense. You will always see only what you wish to see. You might even be lying but it will feel like the truth. It’s not even politicians or sociopaths that we need to be scared of, it’s these people who will use religion in their defense and offence.
While every character has depth and reason behind their every action, none of them are entirely right or entirely in the wrong. That is what makes this so difficult. You cannot even decide who to sympathize with, who to hate, who to feel protective about. That last emotion, maybe you can appoint that to Termeh. Little Termeh who is implicitly manipulated among all these moral dilemmas and conflicts. Termeh, is the heart of the film. Her steady, observant eyes behind those glasses are ever so endearing. When she cries, you know Nader would do anything to make it better. Even though he chooses to stay in Iran for his father’s sake, he isn’t in any way overlooking Termeh’s education and upbringing, altogether.
A major plot twist towards the end which you may or may not have seen coming is the crescendo in the movie. Out of the many obscure moments and behaviours, this is a revelation, a clarity. A Separation cannot be called an emotional drama of sorts. The basic design of the storyline is, that there is no fixed storyline. It’s just a sequence of events happening one after the other. The movie does a wonderful job at making you feel déjà vu at several instances. Who hasn’t witnessed their parents fighting as a child and secretly feared what might happen to you if they decided to “Divorce” or when a terminally ill family member embarrasses themselves and you find yourself feeling pity for them, tell me that at the time you didn’t cry yourself to sleep. Numerous such raw, stunning imagery is depicted in this movie and is rather overwhelming.
What left an indelible mark on me more than anything was the way the movie concluded. Anyone who knows me fairly well will know what endings appeal to me the most. A Separation rightly ends the intense, fantastically raw and titular depiction of human nature criticisms in the most ambiguous manner.