Most movies tell stories. But not all stories are equal. Because of its balance of grace, realism, and terrible, life-size suspense, the story in “A Separation’’ has few recent peers. This is a trenchant emotional thriller that you watch in dread, awe, and amazing aggravation. It’s entirely predicated upon the outcome of bad decisions - and it is not a comedy. The situation that unfolds approaches the absurdity of farce but denies the relief and release of humor. It’s a tragic farce. No option or choice is to be envied.
Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moadi) are getting a divorce. She has an opportunity to move out of Iran, but his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi) has Alzheimer’s and their bookish 11-year-old daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi), is still in school. Nader doesn’t want to split up but he doesn’t want to leave, either. It doesn’t matter. The judge denies Simin’s request. Their case is a pity, he huffs, but it’s not hopeless. Still, Simin moves out of their comfortable, middle-class apartment and into her parents’ home.