Matthew Lickona 4 p.m., Feb. 17
The Past (Le passe)
A simple story, complexly told. After a four-year absence, a man returns to face the wife and daughter he skipped out and to rub eyeballs with his dreaded replacement. By the time director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) and co-writer Massoumeh Lahidji (Certified Copy) get around to revealing the real reason why Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) never received confirmation emails from his soon-to-be ex (Bérénice Bejo), their tightly constructed web of emotional deceit has become so tangled that it’s likely audiences will have forgotten what in less talented hands would have played out like a formulaic foreshadowing device. The Past is an emotional murder mystery that utilizes achingly authentic dialog and readily identifiable emotional violence to adroitly dust off classic themes of miscommunication and mistaken identity. If you are banking on an august, sagacious, and genuinely understated family-in-crisis melodrama, count on this masterly antidote to Oscar bait. 2013.