A Separation (Persian: Jodaeiye Nader az Simin), directed and written by Asghar Farhadi (2011).
The acting is remarkable and the development of the story is top-notch. But this is not what made me fall for this film. More than any film I can recall, it prompted me to reflect on the ups and downs of life-changing relationships — mine and others. We all make mistakes, and in this film we are brought empathetically but forcefully into a tumultuous period of the characters' lives in which they can't help but make their fair share. In this sense the film is more true-to-life than any other I've seen. We see the characters' decisions and actions, and sometimes it's far from clear whether they derive from a motivation to do what they truly aspire to, or if they are just trying to survive under difficult circumstances. We cannot help but watch compassionately, especially because the film wisely and resolutely refuses to allow us to be swept along by stereotypes, sentimentality or rigid distinctions between good and bad. Instead we come to understand the characters even though we don't understand all that they do. Some of my friends say the film is sad or even depressing, but I disagree. I find it uplifting — I am encouraged by the character's struggle for dignity, and humbled by the double-edged nature of their pride. This is film-making and story-telling of the highest standard.
Tehran street scene (this is not from the film)