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Oscar contender 'A Separation': Betsy Sharkey's pick of the week

February 23, 2012 |  5:00 am

There are endless reasons to make time to see “A Separation,” Iran's entry in the foreign language film category, other than to boost your odds in the Oscar pool, though you will.

It is one of those rare films in which literally everything fits together seamlessly, beautifully, to create a rich tapestry of a family that, despite living in modern-day Tehran, will feel remarkably familiar.

Writer-director Asghar Farhadi's tale is of a marriage fracturing under the strains of impossible choices -- do husband (Peyman Moadi) and wife (Leila Hatami) leave their country to make a better life for their daughter or do they stay to care for an aging parent with Alzheimer's? The answer divides them, but it is the ripple effect of their decision that is so wrenching, so artfully told, so remarkably acted.

It is virtually impossible not to be deeply moved by this powerful film. It is impossible not to be struck by the fact that while wars, religion, politics may divide us, when it comes to matters of the heart, the experience is universal.

-- Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic