Divorce is hard on everyone involved. Divorce in Iran is even harder, according to the splintering seen in writer-director Asghar Farhadi's quietly powerful drama "A Separation" but only in part because of the religious strictures of that country's society.
Those strictures come into play in the dispute that begins the film. Simin (Leila Hatami) wants to emigrate out of Iran to give her daughter Termeh (played by the director's daughter, Sarina) a chance at a good education. Simin's husband, Nader (Peyman Maadi), refuses to leave Iran; he wants to tend to his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. Nader won't give Simin a divorce, which would allow her to leave Iran with Termeh, so Simin moves in with her parents, leaving Nader alone with his father.
Since Nader has a job, he hires a maid, Razieh (Sareh Bayat), to tend to his father. But Razieh, a strict Muslim, is uncomfortable dealing with the old man's bathroom issues, so she decides to quit after the first day. Nader persuades Razieh to come back, but problems persist and Nader gets so frustrated with Razieh that he refuses to pay her. When she demands her money, Nader pushes her away from the door. Razieh falls down the stairs and is injured and what began as a small domestic incident escalates into a matter for the courts.