In theaters Dec. 30
"A detective story without a detective" is how writer-director Asghar Farhadi describes A Separation, but that just scratches the surface of this wonderfully rich Iranian movie. A middle-class couple separates when the husband, Nader, refuses to leave Iran with his wife and daughter, needing to stay to tend to his Alzheimer's-stricken father. When he hires a devout lower-class maid to help him care for his dad, bigger troubles begin. It's astonishing how much life Farhadi crams into two fleet, revealing hours: class, religion, law, gender, marriage, a murder charge, the lies one relies on to survive. This domestic thriller is one of the most vibrant, ethically complex, and superbly acted films of the year.