The Past – reviews of 'brilliant' French-Iranian family drama

Mar 28, 2014

Berenice Bejo is 'a revelation' in tense family drama from the director of A Separation

What you need to know
French-Iranian drama The Past opens in UK cinemas today. Critics are calling it an "intricate", "absorbing" and "brilliant" family drama. Academy Award-winning Iranian film maker Ashgar Farhadi (A Separation) directs the film starring Academy Award-winning French actress Berenice Bejo (The Artist), Ali Mosaffa and Tahar Ramin (A Prophet).

It tells the story of an Iranian man, Ahmad (Mosaffa) who reunites with his estranged wife Marie (Bejo) in Paris to finalise their divorce. But the couple's clean break with the past is complicated by Marie's new partner Samir (Ramin), and her angry, troubled daughter.

What the critics like
This is "a bold, honest film about family life", says Phil de Semlyen in Empire. Bejo is a revelation as a fraying woman, turning in a performance as far from The Artist's giddy Peppy Miller as it's possible to get.

Farhadi's absorbing movie about a loss-of-love-triangle is "supercharged with a grand tragic theme – the past and its pitiless grip on us", says Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. It is an intricate and often brilliant drama, with restrained and intelligent performances, suspenseful twists and revelations.

"Farhadi masterfully plots and paces this complicated film", so that the audience is left not just with a fine domestic drama but a detective story too, says Francesca Steele in The Independent. And Bejo and Mosaffa give wonderful performances as a former couple still comfortably irritable in each other's presence.

What they don't like
It's an intricate and often mature drama, but it's also "meandering and at times heavy-handed", says Dave Calhoun in Time Out. It's never entirely clear what Farhadi is trying to say with this film and in the end so much of The Past just doesn't have that crucial ring of truth to it.

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