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Capsule reviews of 'Pariah,' 'A Separation'
Capsule reviews of 'Pariah,' 'A Separation' and other new releases
By The Associated Press

"Pariah" ' Writer-director Dee Rees' feature debut achieves a difficult, intriguing balance. It's at once raw and dreamlike, specific to a particular, personal rite of passage yet relatable in its message of being true to oneself. Adepero Oduye gives a subtly natural performance as Alike (pronounced ah-lee-kay), a 17-year-old Brooklyn girl who's struggling to come out as a lesbian. Each day at school, she dresses the way that makes her feel comfortable in baggy T-shirts and baseball caps, and she pals around with her brash best friend, Laura (Pernell Walker), who's already happily out. But on the bus ride home, she must transform herself into the young lady her mother, Audrey (Kim Wayans), approves of and loves. Audrey hopes arranging a new friendship with a colleague's daughter, Bina (Aasha Davis), will set Alike down a traditionally straight, female path, but this budding relationship only complicates matters further. Simultaneously, Alike's home life is deteriorating, as her police officer father (Charles Parnell) begins keeping suspiciously late hours; it's a subplot that bogs things down and feels like a distraction from Alike's journey, a device to add tension. But Alike's story is inspiring to see: Oduye is both melancholy and radiant in the role, and she makes you long for her character to finally find peace. And Bradford Young's award-winning cinematography gives "Pariah" the gauzy, gorgeous feel of an urban fairy tale. R for sexual content and language. 86 minutes. Three stars out of four.

' Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"A Separation" ' The title is an apt encapsulation of the film as a whole: It may sound simple, but its results are devastating. Writer-director Asghar Farhadi's tale begins as a domestic disagreement in contemporary Iran and morphs into a legal thriller, one that will have you questioning the characters ' and your own perception of them ' again and again. This transformation occurs intimately, organically and seemingly so effortlessly that you may not recognize it right before your eyes. But the lasting effect will linger; while this story is incredibly detailed in the specificity of its setting, its themes resonate universally. Farhadi sets the tense tone right off the top with a long, single take in which middle-class husband and wife Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moadi) sit before a judge to explain their dispute. She wants the family to leave Tehran to provide their studious daughter, Termeh (the director's daughter, Sarina Farhadi), with better educational opportunities. He wants to stay and care for his aging father, who's suffering from Alzheimer's disease. When Simin's divorce request is rejected, she moves out; while the daughter stays, Nader still needs help watching his father. This leads to one fateful decision, and then another and another, until finally, serious criminal charges are at stake. "A Separation" honestly addresses the notions of trust and respect, loyalty and religious devotion. PG-13 for mature thematic material. In Persian with English subtitles. 123 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.

' Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic


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