A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin) has swept awards around the world, including at the Berlin Film Festival and the Golden Globes, so it is the favorite to win the Oscar. At a time when neo-conservatives and weapons manufacturers are drumming up support for the United States or its surrogate, Israel, to attack Iran, it may seem politically controversial for the Academy to honor an Iranian film. The fact is, however, that A Separation is popular because it is a drama about two families in crisis with only a mere dash of politics. The women in Iran may dress differently from those in the U.S., and the Iranian justice system may be different, but at heart couples are couples.

Simin and Nader are a middle-class married couple with a bright 11-year-old daughter, Termeh. They have finally been granted an exit visa and Simin is ready to leave the country, but Nader balks because he feels obligated to care for his father, who has Alzheimer’s disease. Exasperated, Simin moves out of their apartment and goes to live with her mother. Nader is forced to hire a pregnant caregiver, Razieh, who keeps the job secret from her husband, Hodjat, a man whose temper prevents him from holding down a job of his own. One day Nader returns home from work and discovers Razieh gone and his father tied to the bed. When Razieh returns, Nader fires her and pushes her out the door. She falls down the stairs and loses her unborn baby. In Iran a fetus is considered a living being, so Nader is charged with murder.

This is an intense crime investigation drama that also shows the culture clash between an educated family and a poorer, uneducated one.

Like Monsieur Lazhar, A Separation has a plot flaw that I found disruptive. But when I mentioned it to others, I got the same reaction (i.e. so what?) so I’m not even going to go into it. A Separation is gripping throughout and deserves the widespread praise it has received.