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'The Past' delves into the intricacies of a difficult family situation

'The Past' stars Bérénice Bejo as a French woman whose husband shows up to finalize their divorce.

By Peter RainerFilm critic / January 3, 2014

'The Past' stars Tahar Rahim (l.) and Bérénice Bejo (r.).

Sony Pictures Classics

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The Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi makes movies with large emotional expanse in limited physical confines. “A Separation” was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen about a distraught marriage.

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His new one, “The Past,” vaguely similar in theme, though set in Paris, is not up to that film’s level – it’s too diagrammatic and drawn out in its storytelling. But it’s very much worth seeing anyway. Bérénice Bejo (from “The Artist”) plays Marie, a French woman whose Iranian husband (played by Ali Mosaffa) has just arrived from Tehran to finalize their divorce. She lives with two daughters from a prior marriage, and the son of a current lover (Tahar Rahim), also Iranian. All this is a recipe for discord.

The emotional stakes are large-scale, and Farhadi honors them by delving into their intricacies. All the characters in this movie, including Marie’s sullen eldest teenage daughter (beautifully played by Pauline Burlet), are given their due. Grade: B+ (Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material and brief strong language.)

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