Simin’s and Nader’s divorce debate is the first of many complex issues raised and passionately argued in A Separation. In that opening scene, filmed as one four-minute shot, Simin and Nader argue their case directly to the camera, as if the director is instructing the moviegoer to be the judge in a matter of Solomonic import and delicacy — and in that rare film that escapes the usually trim narrative confines of the screen and lodges and lives in the minds of viewers. For days after seeing the movie, you may continue to mull and debate its dilemmas.
“I think it’s insulting to an audience to make them sit and watch a film,” Farhadi has said, “and then give them a message in one sentence.” A Separation raises a host of questions — about family, class, religion and, implicitly, politics — and lets the viewer decide. The film is no art-house conundrum, teasing viewers by withholding information, but an acknowledgment that, in life more than films, people have profound if not always valid reasons for their behavior. In the urgent clash of actions and personalities, almost everyone can be mostly right and crucially, culpably wrong.
—Richard Corliss, TIME (x)