Part-study of divorce, part-depiction of overly complex family dynamics, The Past is a spectacularly acted drama that tackles weighty issues with Farhadi's typically adroit and effortlessly engrossing focus on the minutiae of humanity writhing under the telescope. As the story slowly unravels, what begins as a portrayal of a protracted family blighted by tragedy does, in its second half, become more of a mystery as the truth behind Samir's (nominally ex) wife's comatose state - and how his relationship with Marie originated - is teased out. This augments the way Farhadi balances the focus between the adults and their distinctly characterised children; this is as much their story as it their parents, perhaps more so when Lucie becomes more intrinsic a part of Ahmad's desire to know the truth.
It's with this second half that Farhadi's juggling of each plot point becomes slightly uneven, allowing the subtlety he is known for to become drowned out by scenes of heightened distress. Although there is little respite from the ongoing anguish, the underlying power of the film comes through simple moments of almost unbearable intimacy, be it a glance shared between a father and his son, or two characters conversing through glass barriers, the camera placed from afar, watching but choosing not to listen. It's a delicate motif used throughout The Past, which is at times contrived but for the most part a sombre drama of palpable complexity.
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