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Originally published Friday, February 7, 2014 at 1:10 PM

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‘The Past’ is hard to shake

A three-star review of Asghar Farhadi’s haunting family drama, “The Past.”

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 3 stars

‘The Past,’ with Tahar Rahim, Bérénice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa, Pauline Burlet, Elyes Aguis. Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi. 130 minutes. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material and brief strong language. In French and Persian with English subtitles. Guild 45th.

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“The Past,” from Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation”), takes place in a house in suburban Paris where everything seems transient: train whistles echo at the windows like a constant goodbye, and the rooms seem in a permanent state of semi-rehab flux, with tarps hanging over the furniture like spider’s webs. In this house, a quiet drama is unfolding: Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) has returned to his former home after an absence of several years, not to reunite with his wife, Marie (Bérénice Bejo, of “The Artist”), but to finally divorce her so she can marry her new companion Samir (Tahar Rahim).

A more complicated story, though, soon unfolds: one involving Samir’s wife, and why Marie and Ahmad’s teenage daughter, Lucie (Pauline Burlet), looks so haunted. Details are slowly revealed to us, in the way they might if we were present at the house; some conversations take place out of earshot (though the camera records them, silently), some back­story is revealed through bitter exchanges late at night, as tempers flare. But much of what we know comes through the performances; from the way these three fine actors gaze at each other, particularly Bejo as a woman torn in pieces by her passions. How do you go forward, this movie asks, when the past weighs you down; how do you make right what’s wrong? “The Past” is long and occasionally feels slow — as real life sometimes does — but never false.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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