Asghar Fahradi’s The Past is a harsh look at the way secrets and lies can destroy a family from the inside. The story is set in Paris and, unlike Fahradi’s last project, the Oscar winning A Separation, centers on a much more complicated family dynamic within a multicultural environment.

Asghar Farhadi, AFI Theaters
Expectations were high for Farhadi, after his success with 2011's The Separation.

Thanks to Fahradi’s previous success, expectations are high for this drama. So far, The Past is receiving a positive response from critics and even some early Oscar buzz. It is already being pegged as a lead contender for the foreign film category. The film tells the stories of several bad relationships, which tangle together in various unexpected ways.

Central to the plot is the tension between lead characters Marie and Ahmad, a couple going through the motions of a divorce. The Past opens with Marie (Bérénice Bejo) greeting Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) at the airport, after she’s asked him to fly in from Iran for the divorce. The awkward encounter is a glimpse of what to expect from the rest of the film – it is the story of broken people, working through their problems in a Parisian suburb, which couldn’t be farther from The City of Light usually portrayed on film.

Watch the trailer for The Past below.

The movie premiered on May 17 at the Cannes Film Festival to mostly positive reviews. It received praise for its use of space in particular, moving between rooms in a house to transition between scenes and reveal simultaneous moments in its various characters’ lives. On the other hand, the narrative complications can be hard to follow at times, but are compensated by the compelling acting and Fahradi’s expert direction. The Past hasn’t been announced for a wide release yet, but as of today (December 20th) it is out in selected US cinemas.

Berenice Bejo, Cannes Film FestivalBerenice Bejo gives a star performance in The Past.