Just really strong, guys. It's largely an unimpeachable drama that seems naturalistically captures so many strongly-drawn characters in conversations that feel incredibly grounded, consequences that feel entirely plausible, and emotions that are thoroughly universal. Simin wants to divorce her husband of 14 years, Nader, ostensibly for his refusal to leave Iran and his ailing (Alzheimer's) father at home, and take their 11-year old daughter, Termeh, with her. They separate until they can finalize the divorce, but this activates a sequence of events that reveals director Asghar Farhadi's acute commentaries on marriage, gender roles, class, justice, and a devastating look at the real victims in the disputes of adults.
Termeh has the right combination of naivete and intelligence for a studious, sensitive daughter, bringing emotion to her logical and moral observation of the traumatic drama before her, noting her parents both representing valid, strong approaches to solving their predicament. This reinforces the film's interest in showing not just strong, though flawed male characters fighting for their version of justice, but a careful acknowledgment that smart, driven women have tremendous influence over the eventual outcome of the central dilemma. Farhadi scripts in layers of plot that the film serpentinely explores, showing us Westerners a convincing look at Iranian culture and the religious and moral foundation by which the characters of the film attempt, and sometimes struggle, to consistently live by. As such, A Separation has tremendous sympathy for every character (even the wildcard, the husband of the caretaker of Nader's father), leaving nobody out to be an obvious villian in the end, but merely the consequences of the stubbornness and pride of the adults in the film. A shared glance between two children of disputing families late in the film is a compelling testimony to where this film has taken the viewer. It's not a film of powerhouse moments, but one that, upon the inevitable thoughtful post-viewing ruminations, becomes a powerful experience. So yeah, it basically lived up to the hype.