Imagine walking into a party uninvited, knowing nobody there, as everyone else in the room is mid-argument, and you spend the next two plus hours playing catch-up on what happened to who and why. That is what watching The Past is akin to, drip-feeding you information over its running time, keeping its cards very close to its chest until it deems it necessary for you to know these vital nuggets of information. You will be enthralled and engrossed and uncomfortable all at once, but also exhausted and drained when the closing credits begin to roll.
arie (Berenice Bejo) collects a man, Ahmed (Ali Mossafa), from the airport, and the two seem close and friendly. Then, after a few passive aggressive remarks and discussions about where Ahmed is going to spend the night, we discover he is her soon to be ex-husband, only in town to sign the divorce papers. Why are they getting a divorce? Where has he been in the interim? You’ll find out, but not for a while. Over the next while we discover that Marie and her two daughters are now living with a new man, Samir (Tahar Rahim), and his young son, while his wife lies comatose in a hospital. Why is she in a coma? And why does Marie's eldest daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet) hate Samir so much? You'll find out, but not for a while.

etween the patient, realistic tone of the direction, and the outstanding performances by all involved, The Past takes its time getting under your skin, to the point where you may become impatient waiting for something to happen. While every conversation feels like a necessary one, and with Bejo (previously the lovely leading lady from The Artist) showing another side of her acting abilities, Mossafa and Rahim expertly displaying two very different types of husband and father, and revelatory turns from all the kids, the story they're telling isn't one that feels needed to be spread out over two hours plus.
espite that, as a painfully real take on relationships between parents and kids, between lovers and exs, and the love, hate, fear and anger that fill the gaps between them, The Past is an outstanding achievement.