All the Light in the Sky
Marie (Bérénice Bejo) lives with her fiance, Samir (Tahar Rahim), and her three children, Léa (Jeanne Jestin), Lucie (Pauline Burlet), and Fouad (Elyes Aguis), in a Parisian suburb. Léa and Lucie are from her 1st marriage to a Belgian husband; Foaud is her and Samir's son. She hasn't officially divorced Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), her second husband though, and Samir's wife remains hospitalized in a coma. Matters become further complex when Ahmad arrives to sign the divorce papers and when Lucie blames Marie for the reason why Samir's wife is comatose because her affair with Samir began long before his wife's coma.
Once again, writer/director Asghar Farhadi deals with the dynamics of dysfunctional family that may seem simple on the surface, but a lot happens to be going on beneath its surface alter the way you perceive its characters. Bérénice Bejo gives an powerful, emotionally-charged performance as Marie and tackles the complexities and nuances of the role with conviction. The same can be said for the rest of the solid cast. Farhadi deserves to be commended for writing a screenplay that feels true-to-life and filled with intricate details that humanize its characters without leading to boredom. He also knows what information to expose to the audience explicitly and implicitly as well as what to withhold from them thereby providing some suspense/mystery like he did so well in A Separation. Like many great directors, he trusts your intelligence as an audience member.
The Past does tug at your heartstrings, but not in a schmaltzy or melodramatic way. Not a single moment rings false. You'll find yourself emotionally invested in these characters lives and debating whether or not you like them or trust them for that matter in spite of their flaws---like all human beings, they're fallible. While the plot does become increasingly intricate and complex, it never becomes complicated, confusing or contrived even when certain crucial revelations rise to the surface later in the second act. Yes, The Past clocks at 2 hour and 10 minutes, but unlike most 2 hour plus films that opened this year, you won't feel the weight of its running time because you're so genuinely engrossed and captivated. It's one of the best films of the year.