"A Separation," the 2012 Oscar foreign film recipient and screenplay nominee, is a glimpse into the troubled lives of two couples in Iran.

The film, in Persian with English subtitles, has seamless, beautiful and moving performances so believable you don't think that you're watching a film.

Simin (Leila Hatami) files for divorce from Nader (Peyman Moadi), who has a full-time job and is caring for his elderly father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), who has Alzheimer's disease. The couple has a pre-teen daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi).

Nader hires a care-taker Razieh (Sareh Bayat), who has a young daughter Somayeh (Kimia Hosseini). An incident occurs that causes Nader to push Razieh, injuring her. Razieh's husband Hotjat (Shahab Hosseini) files charges.

Writer-director-producer Asghar Farhadi elevates TV soap opera subject material to compelling cinema. The film was lensed documentary-style in Tehran, Iran.

As Nader, Moadi portrays an intense, brooding but honorable man. Hosseini plays Hotjat as befits his name: an out of control firecracker.

There are telling details. Simin sports a pair of stylish Ray Ban sunglasses, symbolizing her desire to leave Iran and seek a better life for she and her daughter.

"A Separation" conveys powerful emotions and is tension-filled from beginning to end, with a few points of humorous relief.

The film tells a story of families in crisis and strong personal moral codes, which might be surprising to those of us who only know Iran from the headlines.

"A Separation" received its Oscar, many other festival awards and critical acclaim for its universal story, one that goes beyond borders.

"A Separation," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for mature thematic material; Genre: Drama; Run time: 2 hours, 3 minutes; Distributed by Sony Classics Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: In accepting the foreign film Oscar, writer-director Asghar Farhadi said: "At this time many Iranians all over the world are watching us, and I imagine them to be very happy. They are happy not just because of an important award, or a film, or a filmmaker, but, because at a time of talk of war, intimidation, and aggressions exchanged between politicians, the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture; a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics. I proudly offer this award to the people of my country; the people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment."

Box Office, March 2: On the 108th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Seuss, "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" did summer blockbuster business, becoming the year's biggest opening, No. 1 with $70.7 million, keeping "Project X" opening at No. 2, with $20.7 million, and dropping "Act of Valor" to No. 3, $13.7 million, $45.2 million.

4. "Safe House," $7.2 million, $108.2 million, four weeks; 5. "Tyler Perry's Good Deeds," $7 million, $25.7 million, two weeks; 6. "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," $6.9 million, $85.6 million, four weeks; 7. "The Vow," $6.1 million, $111.7 million, four weeks; 8. "This Means War," $5.6 million, $41.4 million, three weeks; 9. "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance," $4.7 million, $44.8 million, three weeks; 10. "The Artist" got an Oscar boost for its five Academy Awards, $3.9 million, $37 million, 15 weeks; 18. "A Separation," $1 million, $3.7 million, 10 weeks

Unreel, March 9:

"John Carter," PG-13: Andre Stanton ("Wall-E") directs, based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs story, "A Princess of Mars." A Civil War veteran (Taylor Kitsch) is transplanted to Mars, inhabited by 12-foot-tall barbarians, where he rescues Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins). The fantasy film also stars Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong and Ciaran Hinds.

"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," PG-13: A fisheries expert helps a sheik bring fly-fishing to the desert in the comedy-romance directed by Lasse Hallstrom that stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas.

"Friends with Kids," R: Two best friends decide to have a child together. The comedy stars writer-director Jennifer Westfeldt, Maya Rudolph, John Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Megan Fox and Edward Burns.

"A Thousand Words," PG-13: Eddie Murphy stars in the comedy about a literary agent, a spiritual guru and a bodhi tree. We are not making this up.

Hear Paul Willistein's movie reviews on Lehigh Valley Arts Salon, 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, www.wdiy.org, Lehigh Valley Community Public Radio. Read previous movie reviews at www.tnonline.com. Email Paul Willistein at: pwillistein@tnonline.com and on Facebook.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes