“A Hero” (2021) – “A person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.” – the definition of a “hero” according to Google.
Asghar Farhadi – who wrote and directed two Oscar-winning films, “A Separation” (2012) and “A Salesman” (2016) – is considered a cinematic hero, a master at wrapping the knottiest threads in the tightest, most claustrophobic spaces: ordinary family households.
“The Past” (2013) – set in Paris rather than Farhadi’s home country of Iran, starring Berenice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa, and Tahar Rahim – is another must-see. In the present, Farhadi had scribed and helmed another winner with his signature stamp of stressful nuance in “A Hero”, about a man, Rahim (Amir Jadidi), who begins this movie as anything but one.
Rahim is in prison for an unpaid debt, but through sheer serendipity, his girlfriend Farkhondeh (Sahar Goldust) randomly discovers 17 gold coins, and voila, this heavenly discovery could free her man from a daunting liability and incarceration.
However, due to the moody temperament of gold prices, their “pieces of 17” aren’t enough to free Rahim’s monetary shackles, so they attempt to return the bag of bounty to its rightful owner. He’s hoping for a reward, and the new plan sounds altruistic, but Rahim tells a lie. He and Farkhondeh bind themselves to it and don’t loosen their grip, but this falsehood begins choking them, like a noose constricting on an exposed neck.
“A Hero” isn’t a thriller but a taxing drama that unfolds at a restrained and calculated pace, and as the minutes pass over the 127-minute runtime, we increasingly squirm in our seats.
The binds tighten on us as well.
The film’s tone feels like Sam Raimi’s effectively suffocating 1998 crime drama “A Simple Plan”, where one error in judgment cascades into an alarming avalanche in snowy Minnesota. Farhadi sets his film on the other side of the planet in Shiraz, Iran, not nearly the most inhabited city in the country. Still, with a population of about 1.6 million, this locale of vast ancient history feels like a vibrant modern metropolis.
Shiraz isn’t a small village where everyone knows Rahim’s name, but via 21st-century social media, where “going viral” phenomenons bloom and burst on a seemingly daily basis, fame can rocket within a day or even a few hours. Rahim’s fib begins in the tiniest of quarters and human circles, but due to that pesky Internet, it swells into a massive loop with no borders, and anyone carrying a smartphone can find themselves in it. Our lead is portrayed as a hero, but this depiction – spread through technological means – isn’t quite accurate.
Technology plays a huge role in “A Hero”, as it lingers like an invisible, celestial being, one that can lob infinite numbers of roses or fire arrows into every single home or place of business in Shiraz. The ever-present effect is beyond Rahim’s control. As he walks into a living room, an office, or a charity organization, his story continues to unfold, but he doesn’t know the newest pages.
Jadidi is completely convincing as Rahim, a decent but flawed man who attempts to atone for past slipups and start anew. The 37-year-old actor shines by furnishing Rahim with sudden glimpses and long stretches of altruism, optimism, regret, and despair. This particular on-screen prisoner wishes to wrap himself up in the former and hopes to avoid the latter, but you know that old saying: Oh, what a tangled web we weave…
⭐⭐⭐ 1/2 out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Written and directed by: Asghar Farhadi
Starring: Amir Jadidi, Sahar Goldust, Mohsen Tanabandeh, and Fereshteh Sadre Orafaiy
Runtime: 127 minutes
Image credits: Amazon Studios