Most movies tell us everything we need to know about their characters instantaneously. They're familiar types and personalities, and their narrative journeys amount to little more than filling in the blanks.

Asghar Farhadi's "The Past" opposes that cautious approach. In a similar fash- ion to the Iranian filmmaker's superb "A Separation," the movie reflects the real world by following individuals who cannot be fitted into a prepackaged box.

The Paris-set movie is centered on Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), an Iranian man who returns to France to grant his wife Marie (Bérénice Bejo) a divorce so that she can be free to live with her boyfriend Samir (Tahar Rahim).

The movie grapples with the precarious minefield that is the mind, exploring the way the characters' memories of their shared past, and the emotions that accompany them, indelibly shape their present and future. Though subtle revelations and small moments that, once put together, collectively add up to a complete picture, "The Past" evokes the complexity of existence.


Directed by Asghar Farhadi

Starring Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa

Rated PG-13

Playing at Film Forum and Lincoln Plaza