The Past is a French film made by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, also known for his recently successful film A Separation. Intelligently designed and subtly executed, it’s a family melodrama that explores the values of truth and uncovers secrets from the past in cleverly unfolding layers.
In the film, Marie asks her estranged husband to return to Paris from Iran in order to finalise their divorce. Upon his arrival, Marie takes him to the somewhat ramshackle yet beautifully dishevelled home they used to share in the outer suburbs of Paris, where it becomes clear that she has taken up with another man. Samir and his son Fouad have moved in with Marie and her two daughters and together they are in the process of restoring the house, which is in an evident state of disrepair. However it soon becomes apparent that the broken pipes and drying paint are a cogent metaphor for the crumbling facade of the family bond, and that the paint is still not yet dry on matters of the past.
Warm and kind, Ahmad soon becomes drawn into the lives of this newly formed family and together they delve into a past imbued with secrets and emotional truths that are cleverly drawn out to propel the narrative forward to its inevitable conclusion.
A beautifully sad and reflective film, The Past teaches us something of the value in staying the course through times of trial, even when no resolution is readily apparent. As the paint begins to dry and the new fittings go up, things seem to go from bad to worse as the past is unravelled and matters are complicated further by Marie’s beautiful and sullen eldest daughter Lucie.
They say that truth comes from the mouth of babes, and while Fouad’s role is somewhat peripheral to the story, he brings us one of the central resolutions of the film with an achingly honest declaration on a grimy Paris metro.
Territorially dangerous, the past can be a murky place of secrets and burdens, yet I walked away thinking that cautious navigation of the past can help us arrive at the heart of a matter and to a place where love, loyalty and truth will prevail.
Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, with Bérénice Bejo as Marie, Ali Mosaffa as Ahmad, Tahar Rahim as Samir, Pauline Burlet as Lucie and Elyes Aguis as Fouad. Rated (M).