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Many people see cinema as a form of escapism. As a result, they seek out films with impossible action sequences, eyeball-searing explosions, and improbable acts of heroism and villainy. However, not all drama requires an infallible hero and an irredeemable villain.
The strength of movies like ‘A Separation’ lies in their ability to examine the unreasonable actions of reasonable people, brought about via a set of stressful or difficult circumstances. In this manner, they simultaneously reduce life itself to an onscreen microcosm and breathe a refreshing air of honesty into cinema – a realm which all too often bends the truth for theatrical effect.
Apart from checking out other movies by the same director (‘Fireworks Wednesday’ and ‘About Elly’ come especially recommended), this short list of films like ‘A Separation’ should achieve a similar effect for enthusiastic viewers thirsting for more.
After Sandra suffers a mental breakdown and takes time off work, her boss realises her colleagues handle the workload in her absence. He then forces her co-workers to decide whether to sack her or sacrifice their Christmas bonus to keep her on the payroll.
A keen demonstration of how moral values are sometimes dictated by the harsh practical reality of life.
A series of interconnected vignettes show how the lives of very different people can become inextricably intertwined, with special emphasis being placed upon racist stereotyping, cultural ignorance, and class clashes. In this way, it’s a little bit similar to the religious and classist friction which arises in ‘A Separation’.
Reformed and newly religious ex-convict, Jack Jordan, tries to leave his alcoholic and criminal days behind him, only to suffer a crushing guilt when he’s accidentally responsible for a fatal crash car.
His actions affect not only himself and the woman he widowed, but also a terminally ill mathematician in desperate need of a heart transplant.
An unemployed single father struggling to come to terms with the responsibility of looking after his son develops an unlikely friendship with a marine park worker who suffers a crushing accident.
A touching and genuine examination of hardship, disability and the fragility of both the human mind and body.
Flitting between the present day and the beginning of their relationship, ‘Blue Valentine’ examines how a high school dropout and a medicine student developed an unorthodox relationship held together by his devotion and her need of a father for her unplanned child, which may or may not be his.
A naked and unflinching account of how square pegs and round holes just won’t go together – no matter how hard you want them to.
In the wake of his father’s death, Oliver reflects on the last few years of their relationship together, dwelling particularly on his father’s revelation that he was gay.
Meanwhile, he struggles to form a new relationship with a French actress dealing with paternal issues of her own.
All of the films featured above fall into the same category of drama, with many including romantic aspects as well. However, realistic cinema doesn’t always have to be tragic or serious; the suggestion below maintains a believable and emotive atmosphere whilst injecting an undercurrent of comedy.
A reticent but loyal maid finds her place as the hired help in a Chilean middle-class home under threat when her employers try to take some of the burden off her shoulders by hiring a helper.
Her cantankerous ways cause friction with several of the recruits, until a free spirit helps to open up a softer side to her personality.
Still hungry for more films that engage and evoke like ‘A Separation’? Checking out the back catalogue of the directors listed above will unearth some similarly powerful gems.
Special mention in particular should go to ‘Biutiful’ and ‘Amores Perros’ by Iñárritu (there’s a reason why he’s only the third director to ever scoop three back-to-back Oscars), ‘The Kid with a Bike’ by the Dardenne brothers and ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ by Audiard.
Got more great recommendations for soulful cinema?
Drop them in the comments section below so that we can all enjoy (or endure, as the case may be!).
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