A Hero movie review: Asghar Farhadi film is an intricate look at complex questions of life

A Hero movie cast: Amir Jadidi, Sahar Goldust, Maryam Shahdaei, Alireza Jahandideh, Mohsen Tanabandeh
A Hero movie director: Asghar Farhadi
A Hero movie rating: 4 stars

Like the intricate scaffolding Rahim (Jadidi) climbs at the start of the film, A Hero is a story laid layer upon layer, an outer structure holding up the insides, the whole edifice vulnerable to one false step.

Rahim makes this one small misstep when he and his girlfriend (Goldust) decide to trade in a bag of gold coins she found, to pay off a debt so as to earn his release from prison. But the money turns out to be short, and once that moment of relief has passed, they decide it is better to turn in the coins to the rightful owner.

In a world with few heroes, in a prison with fewer of them, Rahim becomes an instant celebrity. He tries at first to explain the situation, and then as everyone lines up to celebrate him, to help him pay off his money, and to offer him a job, it gets easier for him to see his story as “not the truth” but also “not a lie”.

But the world we live in has a way of bringing down its heroes as swiftly as it builds them up. And so it happens to Rahim, and almost overnight, the universe again slips from under his feet and then, whatever he does, however true his intentions this time, it keeps slipping.

Two-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi crafts his stories out of such ordinary lives spinning out of control by one small circumstance. A Hero is similarly remarkable in how much it tells us about Iranian way of life, honour and family, through its small group of characters (played by an excellent cast). These are lives bound together by blood and business, small lives and bureaucratic ones, prison lives and public ones, activist lives and secret ones, parents’ lives and those of their children – none of them lived in isolation. One amazing detail compares Rahim’s life with that of the relative (Tanabandeh) who helped him at one time by lending him the money, who in this unfolding narrative is increasingly the villain of the piece.

Is it an act of goodness if no one knows about it? Is it goodness still when the act becomes larger than it? What is goodness long after the act is done? And what does the act matter if the goodness sours?

There are complex questions here, made more ironic by the fact that Farhadi is facing serious charges over plagiarising the story of A Hero from one of his students. That episode started with an assignment by Farhadi for his students to find a story about a person who returned a thing belonging to a stranger. Whichever way the court rules in Farhadi’s case, A Hero will make you pause the next time you come across such a story.


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