A Separation and possible divorce of Iranian couple Nader and Simin (married for 14 years) are at the heart of this movie. After months of trying and waiting, they got the visa to leave the country and migrate to the West and Simin wants to leave to give her daughter Termeh, a better future. Nader however, is deeply occupied in carrying for his father who has Alzheimer’s disease and does not want to leave. While this is a central theme around which the movie revolves, there are other dramas on the side that are equally engaging and give a deep insight into the cultural, class, and moral ethos of the Iranian society and yet other poignant situations show how similar human challenges are all over the world. For instance, Razieh a deeply religious woman, retained by Nader to care for his father, calls the religious hotline to ask if it would not be a sin for her to clean Nader’s father who becomes incontinent. On the other hand, the pull and sadness and turmoil that Termeh goes through being caught in the middle of her warring parents is identical to any teenager experiencing very similar feelings, upon encountering similar situation, almost anywhere in the world.
Razieh is pregnant, commutes long distance to take care of Nader’s father, and is soon overwhelmed caring for the old man with Alzheimer’s disease. One day she ties his hand to the bed post and leaves for a visit to her doctor. Nader returns home with his daughter and finds his father lying on the floor unconscious. He is enraged and when Razieh returns, he accuses of her having stolen the money that also finds missing, and refuses to pay her, and asks her to leave. She insists on clearing her name and insists on her payment and Nader shoves her out of the apartment. She falls and then hurries out. Later, she looses her child and there is court drama where Nadar is accused of killing the unborn child and Nader accuses Razieh of neglecting his father and Razieh’s hot headed husband makes threats against Nadar and his family. Upon insistence of his wife, Nader offers to pay blood money and drop the feud, at which point Razieh refuses to take the money saying that just the previous day before Nader shoved her out of the building, his father had wandered off from home and as she went looking for him and as she ran to keep him from being run over by cars, a car had bumped into her. She feared that her miscarriage might be the result of her being hit by the car and if she accepted the money than Almighty’ wrath would fall upon her and her family. This enraged her husband who owes money to creditors and will likely be jailed. Nader and Simin leave them and then go to proceed with their divorce. The movie ends with the judge drawing the separation papers and then asking Termeh to choose the parent she would like to live with.
This was an intense movie with much food for thought. Almost anyone can relate to how much the teenager is torn between her parents. It seems while she might prefer to live with her mother, she feels they would never get together again, unless she continues to live with her father. We can also relate to how Nader is sandwiched between caring for his father and caring for his daughter and taking care of the home, after his wife leaves. Razieh and her husband, on the other hand, are struggling with poverty and perhaps even wrongly accused of theft and of looking to make free money out of their tragedy. I loved the movie. It is beautifully made, avoids exaggerations, and in the end, one feels nothing but compassion for each and every character caught in the middle of life’s many challenges and constraints. The movie won 84th Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012, becoming the first Iranian film to win the award and received Best Film, Best Actress, and Best Actor award at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival and also won Golden Bear and 69th Golden Globe Awards for the Best Foreign Language Film.