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A Hero (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

A HERO (2021)

Starring Amir Jadidi, Mohsen Tanabandeh, Alireza Jahandideh, Sahar Goldoost, Fereshteh Sadr Orafaie, Sarina Farhadi, Ehsan Goodarzi and Maryam Shahdaei.

Screenplay by Asghar Farhadi.

Directed by Asghar Farhadi.

Distributed by Amazon Studios. 127 minutes. Rated PG-13.

What is it that makes a hero? Is a good deed which is perhaps done with some ulterior motives still a good deed? Can a person be both selfless and selfish at the same time?

Welcome back to the world of Asghar Farhadi, in whose films nothing is completely black and white, and nothing is exactly what it seems. The Iranian director is returning to his homeland after flirting with big-time filmmaking with Everybody Knows a few years ago – even working in Spain with internationally-known actors like Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz.

However, he is best known for his humanist little morality plays of his native country like A Separation and About Elly. This new film takes a nuanced look at some very complicated characters and does not judge them one way or another. Some of what they do is good, some of what they do is bad. The natural heroes and villains both have valid arguments for their points of view. After all, everyone has their reasons.

The “hero” of the title is Rahim (Amir Jadidi). Rahim is in debtor’s prison because a failed business venture has left him severely in debt to the brother of his ex-wife. Rahim is an affable guy, and desperate to find a way out of his debt so he can move home. He has a new girlfriend (although he must keep their relationship secret due to his incarceration and her family honor.)

One day his girlfriend Farkhondeh (Sahir Goldoust) finds a purse full of gold coins. They are not enough to pay off his debt, but they would be a good chunk. When Rahim gets a short leave from the prison, he looks into selling the coins. However, he has a change of heart and decides to try to find the original owner of the bag.

His selfless gesture becomes a feel-good news story, and suddenly there is a massive push to get this “hero” out of jail.

However, his story has some holes in it. He can’t say that his clandestine girlfriend found the coins, so he makes up a convoluted story of how he found them himself and goes out of the way to be sure that the world knows what he has done. As the cracks build in his story – and it turns out they may have returned the coins to the wrong person – a backlash starts to form.

As Rahim continues to lie about what he did – often bringing his son (who stutters and is mentally challenged) on camera with him – you can’t help but wonder how selfless his gesture really was.

In the meantime, his debtor is portrayed as a villain – and to a certain extent he earns it, being petulant and stubborn on the subject of releasing Rahim from the prison. However, his protestations and doubts about Rahim’s character do have a ring of truth, and it cannot be denied that his life was thrown into chaos due to the debt.

The film has an ambiguity and fatal sense of inevitability which makes it fascinating.

Farhadi recognizes that no man is all good or all bad, and this taut story is yet another terrific example of his intriguing world view and his sterling body of work.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: January 8, 2022.


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