The best screenplay of 2011. A man and woman seek a divorce because the woman wants to leave the country while the man won’t leave his Alzheimer’s afflicted father behind. This one incident leads to an escalating series of events that can only be summarized as one lousy situation after another in which your feelings and allegiances constantly change (in the end, you may come out feeling most sympathy for the judges who have to adjudicate these often histrionic conflicts—in the U.S. we may call our lawyers scum sucking bottom feeders, but this movie suggests that attorneys can certainly make the process run so much smoother). The genre is soap opera, but of such a high quality that it transcends not just its genre, but genre period, and in the end, A Separation is the reason I go to movies, so I can experience films as remarkable and emotionally wrenching as this. This is a four character drama in the tradition of A Streetcar Named Desire, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and A Long Day’s Journey Into Night and it has all the virtues of these films: riveting and deep characters played by a roundelay of actors (Peyman Moadi, Leila Heitami, Sareh Bayat, and Shahab Hosseini) who go for the jugular and, like a pack of pit bulls, just won’t let go. It’s both a fascinating look at another culture, yet achieves a poignant universality. Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, it won best foreign language film at the 2011 Oscars and was nominated for best original screenplay.

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