Asghar Farhadi (A Separation – which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012) is an Iranian filmmaker of extraordinary insight and skill. He writes and directs movies involving ordinary people that have moral quandaries. So it is with his latest film, A Hero.
Rahim Soltani (Amir Jadidi) is a man whose wife left him. He has a young son who stutters badly. A sign painter and calligrapher, for the past three years Rahim has been in prison over an unpaid debt. When printed banners came along, he had to shut his business. He obtained a loan to start a new business, but his partner took his money and he was unable to pay it back. His guarantor – Bahram (Mohsen Tanabandeh) – had to pay for Rahim. But then Bahram filed a complaint against Rahim and Rahim went to jail. Bahram continues to distrust Rahim and he still hasn’t got his money back. Every now and then Rahim gets a short period of leave from prison to visit his family. They include his sister Malileh (Maryam Shahdaie) and her husband Hossein (Ali Reza Jahandideh), their two children and Rahim’s son Siavash (Saleh Karimai).
Rahim also has a new partner, Farkhondeh (Sahar Goldoust), who works at a speech therapy centre. The pair care deeply for one another and they want to be together permanently. But for that they need approval from Farkhondeh’s brother and he doesn’t trust Rahim. Farkhondeh comes across a lost handbag containing 17 gold coins. Rahim hopes to convert these into cash to help repay part of his debt to Bahram, which, in turn, will see him released from prison. But when his conscience won’t let him cash in the coins, he proceeds to try to find the owner of the handbag … and that’s when his real troubles begin. A television appearance, gossip and social media place a heavy burden on Rahim and those with whom he associates. That includes his family, his partner, his jailers and a charitable organisation.
A story that tugs at the heartstrings, A Hero has many convolutions. There are roadblocks aplenty in Rahim’s attempt at freedom. Of course, first up is the rule of law that saw Rahim jailed in the first place, but then it escalates from there. Part of Rahim’s persona – most of the time – is to present himself with a smile, even though that belies his real position. He is fundamentally earnest and respectful, but he – like all of us – has a breaking point and much of the damage is done when he lashes out.
Amir Jadidi brings authenticity to the lead role, but so too do others in the cast. In fact, it is the naturalness in the performances that distinguishes A Hero.
A film of rare quality, it has a fly-on-the-wall feel. Most credit must go to Asghar Farhadi, for picking his way through the complexities he has created and touching the audience the way he does. A Hero continues his fine canon of work.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.