Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi solidifies his status as one of cinema's finest living dramatists with The Past, a superb follow-up to 2011's Oscar-winning A Separation that again situates audiences amid interpersonal, familial, and household crises. Working from a script that incisively plumbs a thicket of logistical and emotional complications, Farhadi's film is set in France but concerns a fractured family of Iranian expats whose lives are thrown into disarray when Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returns from Tehran after four years away at the request of estranged wife Marie (Bérénice Bejo), who needs him to sign divorce papers so that she can marry new beau Samir (A Prophet's Tahar Rahim). That union is made thornier by the fact that Samir's wife, Céline (Aleksandra Klebanska), is in a coma after a suicide attempt. Samir's eight-year-old son, Fouad (Elyes Aguis), is taking the transition hard, albeit with greater grace than Marie's angry teenage daughter from her first marriage, Lucie (Pauline Burlet). This new family proves a chaotic muddle. Yet as in A Separation, Farhadi reveals details regarding his various players' conditions with a graceful hand. Bolstered by performances that convey profound grief and remorse without look-at-me histrionics, The Past is steeped in the believable micro details of its scenario while also expanding to universals. More overpowering still is its masterfully composed, heartbreaking final scene of Samir visiting Céline at the hospital, culminating with a shot of a finger hoping to be squeezed by a lifeless hand. Farhadi's film locates the desire to escape the past and also the futile desire to hold tightly to it.