Following his stay in Europe for the 2018 thriller Everyone knows with Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, the famous director Asghar Farhadi returns to his homeland with A hero, yet another passionate social-realist drama about the tangled mess of contemporary Iranian life. The story of an imprisoned man trying to fight his way to freedom, trapping just about everyone in his struggling orbit, it’s an insightful morality play on the complicated nature of nobility and deception, even if some narrative hiccups prevent it from reaching the heights of its previous A separation and The past.
Iran’s entry for best international feature film at the upcoming 94th Oscars, A hero (January 7 in theaters and January 21 on Amazon, on the heels of a brief qualifying race for the awards) concerns Rahim (Amir Jadidi), who was jailed for three years for failing to repay a large loan to his creditor Bahram (Mohsen Tanabandeh). At the start of the film, Rahim is released from prison on a two-day leave and reunites with his girlfriend Farkhondeh (Sahar Goldust), who recently found a lost bag at a bus stop containing a collection of gold coins. Together, they attempt to sell these coins for money that Rahim can then use to pay off some of his debt to Bahram. However, when they are offered much less than they had originally hoped for, they concoct an alternate plan: display flyers all over town on the lost bag in hopes that the owner makes contact, and that Rahim earns positive publicity that will convince Bahram to forgive his unpaid bill.
Initially, this good deed went unpunished, with Rahim receiving praise from the prison authorities after his sister Mali (Maryam Shahdaei) handed the bag to a woman who responded to Rahim’s announcement and who had hidden the gold from her husband in in case she needs it. in an emergency. A television appearance extolling Rahim’s selfless act helps his cause, by convincing a charitable council to raise funds on his behalf in order to meet Bahram’s demands. Right off the bat, however, cracks in this ploy start to form, as Rahim publicly claiming (on the advice of his jailers) that he found the bag, rather than Farkhondeh. Additionally, Bahram simply does not trust Rahim, whose initial irresponsibility cost the businessman not only the money he loaned him, but the dowry he saved for his daughter. . Whatever the evolution of popular sentiment, Bahram refuses to be called a villain for wanting what he is owed. Moreover, even once he agrees (temporarily) to let Rahim off the hook, growing rumors on social media start to spread, both about the prison officials concocting this story to hijack the attention of a separate crisis and on Rahim’s lack of honor.
In the latter case, these suspicions are somewhat valid. Rahim both legitimately returned lost property and yet lied about his motives, and his subsequent decision to trot his stuttering son Siavash as a means of eliciting additional sympathy made him a less than commendable individual. Farhadi’s camera follows Rahim as he rushes from place to place trying to prop up his fiction, often subtly evoking his protagonist’s trapped circumstances through compositions that spy on him through bars and fences , or in narrow doors. At the same time, the director does not employ any music, thus amplifying the immediacy of his unadorned portrayal of the plight of Rahim, in which selfish intentions are realized through virtuous actions and therefore engender gnarled situations that require even more. of duplicity.
Rahim is neither a villain nor a wronged innocent, and A hero is in the middle ground upside down that it has created for itself. This space becomes more uncomfortable when, having apparently cleared his name, Rahim struggles to secure a job that will help secure payments to Bahram, only to find out that his potential employer wants proof of Rahim’s welfare account. Providing such evidence proves impossible when the owner of the bag cannot be contacted, and Rahim’s response to this state of affairs further blurs an already chaotic dilemma. The same is true of a subsequent brawl between Rahim and Bahram which once again puts the reputation of the former in question and forces him to redouble his efforts to make mistakes from which he cannot easily extricate himself.
“At the same time, the director does not employ any music, thus amplifying the immediacy of his unadorned portrayal of the plight of Rahim, in which selfish intentions are realized through virtuous actions and therefore engender gnarled situations that require even more. of duplicity.“
Rahim’s Trial is a case study in moral gray areas, where no one is cursed or blameless, and A hero navigates its thematic landscape with a discreet incisor. Almost anyone who has anything to do with Rahim becomes a victim of collateral damage, from Farkhondeh and Siavash to council members and prison officials who – for both selfish and altruistic reasons – helped pass the version on. of the events of Rahim, and now want to minimize the flashback of his possible exposure as a fraud. Where the film stumbles, however, is in its somewhat squeaky late scripting. Rahim’s decision to literally take matters into his own hands seems a bit artificial, as does the near-blackmail plot that follows.
Even more pressing is a general lack of suspense, which is due both to Farhadi’s tonally reserved storytelling (which never rises to the required crescendo) and the fact that Rahim’s shadow is difficult to shake, and therefore neutralizes the sympathy for his predicament, no matter what it is as much the result of the cruel hand of fate as it is a reflection of his character. Nonetheless, what we feel for Rahim as much as for ourselves is testament to the performance of Jadidi, whose exhausted face and sad eyes exude genuine concern not only for her own well-being, but for Farkhondeh and, in particular, Siavash, whose exploitation he ultimately cannot tolerate. In this ultimate refusal to treat his child like a mere pawn in a game he desperately seeks to win, and to accept responsibility for his own fortune, Rahim demonstrates the decency he has already affected for so many. and allows A hero to locate a true measure of admirable heroism.