The Past is about a non-nuclear family’s internal strife. Marie awaits her husband’s arrival at the airport with a pleasant expression in the opening scene that stands in contrast to the unfolding story.
Having brought Ahmad back from Iran to finalize their divorce, Marie asks her boyfriend to sleep at his place in the interim to avoid any awkwardness while Ahmad stays at the house.
Ahmad bonds with Fouad, the boyfriend’s confused and unruly toddler. His mother lies in a coma in a hospital while his father’s girlfriend tries to discipline him. Fouad is in search of stability where there is none, and represents children that can’t express themselves in need of protection.
Although he isn’t her father, Marie’s teenage daughter Lucie has a close relationship with Ahmad, and she opens up to him about problems that occurred during his separation from Marie.
The Past is an interesting film about the strains modern relationships exert on a family and some of its consequences. Through Fouad and Lucie, children serve as collateral damage caused by forces outside their control that they can’t understand when a family unit frays at the seams. Through his empathetic ear, Ahmad is somewhat of a magical Persian who seems to understand and fix everyone’s problems in the story except Marie’s.
There seems to be a connection with Asghar Farhadi’s other movie A Separation. In The Past, there is an underlying message that life is better in Iran for an Iranian, which is consistent with A Separation where the catalyst for that family’s predicament was the wife’s desire to emigrate to America. Farhadi’s portrayal of his characters carries an implicit notion that women have a responsibility for holding a family together or conversely tearing it apart.
Although Farhadi’s films have received international acclaim that is deserved, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the audience he is speaking to is Iranian.