Film: The Past (Le Passe)
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Country: France, Italy
There is absolutely no doubt The Past by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi is a masterpiece filled with artistic sensibility. The story is one that makes you think about the complexities of life which can definitely be avoided in real life (in my opinion, don’t try this love tangled mess at home) and the repercussions a broken home has on the children that are caught in the middle of their parents’ love affairs. The film also reminds us that living in the past is the most destructive of all states, that it becomes impossible to move forward when past grudges are held onto.
The Past is strongly rooted in reality as reconstructed families are more and more common these days.
That being said, the film is filled with tension and extreme situations of loss, divorce and reconstructed family life. If you are one to go to the movies to “dream,” do not go see this film as it will leave you feeling quite down. Then again, French films have always been fond of exploring dark and over dramatic situations, something its public has been getting used to over the years.
The Past is set in the surburbs of Paris. We get a look inside the unglorified “Parisian” life we are not often exposed to in everyday rom-coms.
Yes, there are families in France that live by the train tracks, in homes too small to have guests sleep in their own room. Yes, there’s financial struggles and issues with how to raise your kids.
That is the case for Marie (Berenice Bejo from The Artist) who shares her small home with her teenage daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet), her boyfriend’s son Fouad (Elyes Aguis), and her other daughter Lea (Jeanne Jestin). Over the course of the movie, we learn that Lucie and Lea are blood-related sisters and that Fouad is their step-brother. Samir (Tahar Rahim), Marie’s boyfriend and Fouad’s father has returned for the time being to his miniscule “chambre de bonne” in Paris above his dry cleaning business.
The film’s calm and omnipresent opening sequences take a turn of pace when Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) comes back to ex-wife Marie to finalize their divorce once and for all.
Marie suggests he sleeps at her house, and Ahmad ends up sharing a room with little Fouad who is left angry and confused by the entire situation.
A good call would have been to let Ahmad sleep at the hotel, but you know how the French love drama….
Ahmad turns out to be a wonderful caring father-figure to Marie’s lost kids which is quite ironic as Ahmad is neither’s Fouad’s father nor Lea’s and Lucie’s. He was part of Marie’s life for four years and went home to Iran after things went sour.
Things get out of hand quickly as Lucie skips class and comes home late at night. Marie asks Ahmad to go and talk to her and find out what her problem is. He eventually does and finds out she is deeply affected by Samir and Marie’s relationship which she finds absolutely repulsive.
We learn through Lucie that Samir is still married to his wife Celine who is in a coma because of her suicide, an act Lucie thinks was committed because of her mother and Samir’s love affair.
Marie eventually tells Ahmad she is pregnant with Samir’s baby – something Lucie does not know.
Lucie learns from Ahmad that her mother is pregnant and she finally reveals what’s been hunting her this whole time: the love letters between Samir and Marie she sent to Celine the day before Celine’s suicide.
Lucie feels guilty for what she thinks is the cause of Celine’s coma.
We later find out Naima (Sabrina Ouazani), one of Samir’s dry cleaner workers, is tangled in the mess with a last minute unforeseen twist denouement.
Lucie eventually tells her mother what she did which causes havoc. Marie throws her out of the house and Ahmad runs after her. This is the point in the film where an imagined alternative ending would be Ahmad and Lucie running away together from this nightmare of a mess. But that, of course, does not happen. Lucie returns home and the only person we truly feel sorry for is poor Ahmad who’s trying to make things right with this family he was once involved in.
His good friend Shahryar (Babak Karimi) tells him best: you need to take a step back and not get involved like he had gotten himself involved in the past.
Samir finally reveals to Marie that he is still caught up between her and his wife Celine, something Marie knew all along but did not have the guts to say.
The end scene is absolutely fantastic. It involves Celine in a vegetative state, Samir and perfume, tears strolling down Celine’s face and her squeezing Samir’s hand.
By Claire Miglionico