Sounds melodramatic. It is but it never turns into a soap opera. Many of the issues of personal and cultural identity are raised only in passing. No one mentions them verbally but they are there. Both Samir and Ahmad exert control by "fixing" things around the house for instance.
Once you start to sympathize with one character you find out more about the perspective about another character. What you are sure happens is often, subtly and realistically, turned on its head. It is a superbly written and acted film. Bérénice Bejo is flawless. You understand her manipulations, her anger even if you do not totally sympathize with all her actions and words. This role is a long way from The Artist's Peppy Miller.
Director Asghar Farhadi is justifiably compared to John Cassavettes. But in some respects Farhadi's work seems more real. He has a different visual style from Cassavettes as well (his movies often felt suffocating for some reason and this is meant as a compliment).
This is a serious film. It isnt about some larger than life story. No one here is trying to save the world--just themselves. It is about real people and lives and it manages to capture something incredibly close to real life on screen. This is especially true in that the characters do not do what we want them to necessarily. There isn't some grand resolution here either. Life goes on.
In both films also there is a focus on how the actions of adults affect children. It seems to be something Farhadi is preoccupied with--but, again, it isn't articulated. You see the trauma kids go through because of their parents. And, like in real life, no one really talks about it.