Just going to awkwardly start this review by saying how incredible this film is. I wanted to state it as early as possible so there’d be no confusion, but I doubt that considering what I’m about to write. Man, this thing is like nothing I’ve seen before, it’s one great film for a while and then subtlety shape shifts genre so beautifully and effortlessly it creates so much more layers and meaning that I wasn’t even aware of. I mean, it was all their under the surface, and you don’t think the film could delve any deeper, but by so easily changing positions it reveals so much more. Alright, this is vague and veiled, so lets start at the beginning.
Ahmad arrives in Paris with dual purposes, most chiefly to see the kids he was once a father to (and very much still feels that way), but also to finalize and sign the divorce papers with his former wife. Ahmad stays at his ex-wife’s house and sees how much has changed since he’s last see them, and how much things are just like they’ve always been. The biggest change is his ex-wife, Marie, being engaged to a new guy, Samir, taking in his child and being with child herself. Of course, Ahmad’s presence shakes up the stasis, and delivers a fine drama about a man trying to reconnect with the life he loved so much that is drifting further and further away from him. This is just the film’s first gear, but a fine drama it creates just in the first one. Marie and Samir met under odd circumstances, where Samir previously and still has a wife, even through their flirting. Seemingly unprovokingly, Samir’s wife attempts suicide by drinking laundry detergent. She’s depressed, maybe. Found out about the affair, maybe. Thinks Samir is having an affair with a co-worker, maybe. Trying to spite said co-worker because his wife hates her, maybe. Within the film a mystery develops, that holds the fabric of the entirety of its events in the palm of its hand, and is ready to rip It apart at any moment.
It’s the skill of the film that from the first scene where we see Samir we’re directed to dislike him. Of course, we’re on Ahmad’s side, wanting him to get back with Marie where she sees the error of her ways in her impending engagement, and hoping he gets to be a father again. Samir yells at his kid and is just outwardly portrayed as a douche. While his wife lies in a coma here he is impregnating some new woman and planning to marry her, what a dick move. When the film switches over into it’s mystery quotient near the end, we shift focus towards Samir’s point of view, and everything becomes a lot clearer. His motivations that were unseen before are now sprawled out in front of us, and it’s all there for us to understand. You’re maybe not firmly, but definitely sympathetic to him when he delves deeper into the circumstances surrounding his wife’s suicide and how it puts everything in a new, and not better, but alternate view.
It’s a film that never seems like it’s going to take you down some twists and turns, and while unexpected, it totally works and just builds the film up even more. That’s what I loved about it the most, how organically it evolved and revealed this new layer that we never saw coming, but added so much more meaning. The first two thirds just lays the groundwork, connections, characters and such and then brilliantly plays off what we know and what we thought we knew to turn it on its had in a real way. I really didn’t expect much from the The Past, but it doubly surprised by actually being good and engaging and then ratcheting that up during the film. A truly unique film that not only tackles real everyday issues, but slowly tightens its grip on you until you can’t squirm free until the credits roll.