A Hero film review: Asghar Farhadi’s film is a complex look at life’s complex issues

A Hero Movie Cast: Amir Jadidi, Sahar Goldust, Maryam Shahdaei, Alireza Jahandideh, Mohsen Tanabandeh
A Movie Director Hero: Asgar Farhadi
A Hero Movie Rating: 4 stars

Like the complex scaffolding that Rahim (Jadidi) climbs at the start of the film, A Hero is a story layered upon layer, an outer structure supporting the interior, the whole edifice vulnerable to misstep.

Rahim makes this small misstep when he and his girlfriend (Goldust) decide to trade a bag of gold coins she found, to pay off a debt in order to win his release from prison. But the money turns out to be insufficient, and once this moment of relief has passed, they decide it’s best to return 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 first tries to explain the situation, and then as everyone lines up to celebrate him, help pay his money and offer him a job, it becomes 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 quickly as it builds them. And that’s what happens to Rahim, and almost overnight the universe slips again under his feet and then, whatever he does, however true his intentions this time, he keeps slipping.

Two-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi creates his stories from those ordinary lives that spiral out of control because of one small circumstance. A hero is also remarkable in that it tells us about the Iranian way of life, honor and family, through its small group of characters (played by an excellent cast). These are lives bound by blood and business, petty lives and bureaucratic lives, prison lives and public lives, activist lives and secret lives, parents’ lives and those of their children – none of them only lived isolated. A stunning detail compares Rahim’s life to that of the relative (Tanabandeh) who once helped him by lending him money, who in this unfolding tale is increasingly the villain of the play.

Is it an act of kindness if no one knows? Is it still kindness when the act becomes greater than itself? What is kindness long after the deed is done? And what does the act matter if kindness deteriorates?

There are complex issues here, made all the more ironic by the fact that Farhadi faces serious charges for plagiarizing the story of A Hero from one of his students. This episode began with a mission from Farhadi for his students to find a story about a person who returned a thing belonging to a stranger. Regardless of the court’s decision in Farhadi’s case, A Hero will give you pause the next time you come across such a story.

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