*** out of ****
Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi made a name for himself in America with the terrific, Oscar-nominated A Separation. His follow-up, The Past, is another strong effort focused on the disintegration of families.
Ali Mosaffa plays an Iranian who returns to Paris to sign divorce papers to finalize his break with his wife (Berenice Bejo from The Artist). She's currently living with a man (Tahar Rahim) and his son, as well as her two daughters from a relationship prior to the one she had with Mosaffa. If the situation is not complicated enough, Rahim is still married to a woman who's in what is likely a permanent coma from a failed suicide attempt.
Just like in A Separation, Farhadi excels at making the audience understand every character's point of view and why they make their choices. After a first hour of domestic tension, the film turns into something of a mystery regarding why Rahim's wife's attempted suicide. The solution manages to be unsettling and surprising without descending into hokey clichés.
Farhadi's writing, coupled with the actor's fine work, makes this a compelling watch for the duration of its 130-minute running time.