"The Past" Movie Review: 3 1/2 Stars
by Michael Phillips
In an earlier
Writer-director Farhadi's new film is "The Past."
It has the unenviable position of following the deserved global rapture that greeted his previous work, "A Separation," two years ago. What can a filmmaker do after he comes up with a modern masterwork? He can only continue to explore. His latest is very good.
- 'Lone Survivor' Movie Review
- 'Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones' Movie Review
- 'August: Osage County' Movie Review
- 'The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box' Movie Review
- 'The Past' Movie Review
- 'At Berkeley' Movie Review
- 'Aftermath' Movie Review
- 'The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) ' Movie Review
- 'Liv and Ingmar' Movie Review
- 'Breakfast With Curtis' Movie Review
- "Her" Movie Review
- "The Wolf of Wall Street" Movie Review
- "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" Movie Review
- "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" Movie Review
- "Grudge Match" Movie Review
- "American Hustle" Movie Review
- "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" Movie Review
- "Inside Llewyn Davis" Movie Review
- "Walking With Dinosaurs" Movie Review
- "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" Movie Review
- "Saving Mr. Banks" Movie Review
More Movie Reviews ...
Farhadi shot "The Past" in
The setup is simple.
Four years prior to the action of the film, a soft-spoken Iranian man, Ahmad, played by
Marie, who works in a pharmacy, now shares a small house in the working-class northeastern
Marie has two daughters from a previous relationship, the older of whom (
But they cannot move on.
Samir remains stuck, guiltily, between the near-lifeless wife we see only in the final scene and the vibrant but unsteady Marie. Ahmad, the returning Iranian, tried making a living (his profession is unspecified, though early drafts of the script stated he was a filmmaker) in a new country, with limited success. Everyone has their reasons for doing what they do, and concealing what they conceal.
It's a sad and beautiful picture, photographed with supple mastery by cinematographer
Bejo, Rahim and Mosaffa are all excellent, as are the young actors Burlet and Aguis. American audiences know Bejo (in a role originally earmarked for Marion Cotillard) primarily from her Oscar-nominated turn as Peppy Miller in "The Artist." Her natural ebullience is tamped down but good in "The Past." Her performance never asks for pity or sympathy, only understanding. Now and then, as in "A Separation," you can feel Farhadi subtly stacking the deck in favor of his calmer, more rational male characters. But even so this is nuanced work, as written and as brought to shadowy life by the cast.
The limitation of "The Past" is purely expositional.
In "A Separation," Farhadi's intricate plotting maintained a grip of suspense throughout. Here, there's a more studied air
to the developments and secret-spilling, pushing things closer to
The miracle is that even with a bit of dramaturgical clunkiness "The Past" is fluid, intimate cinema.
Few directors today can shoot in such tightly confined spaces, with such a determined control over his actors' movements, and make the drama work so well. The final seconds of "The Past" (a happy accident, according to one of the performers) show the audience one truth, while the character on screen remains in the dark. Farhadi is obsessed with the high cost of keeping a secret. "The Past" leaves all of its characters suspended, tantalizingly, in an emotional limbo, which not even the truth can dispel.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic material and brief strong language), Running time: 2:10.
"The Past" Movie Trailer