Opening 31 Mar 2022
Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi’s (A Separation, 2012, The Salesman, 2016) current awards season contender, A Hero, is a biting commentary on the world’s allure to fame, and prevalent bureaucratic ludicrousness. Farhadi’s screenplay focus is the practice of imprisoning debtors, customary even in Spain, and affable, attractive Rahim Soltani’s (Amir Jadidi) two simple actions that are twisted into a jaded narrative with an undeterminable maze of checks, balances, retribution, regret and retrieval, and ultimately resignation.
Released for a two-day prison leave—almost unheard of, Rahim rejoins society continually smiling. He is hoping to somehow find enough money to repay, or at least to shorten, his 10-year sentence. Beloved Farkhondeh (Sahar Goldust) found a purse containing gold coins that could be his ticket to freedom and their future together. However, reality arrives when the coins are appraised. Brother-in-law Hossein (Alireza Jahandideh) cannot help financially; when sister Malileh (Maryam Shahdaei) discovers the purse, her moral compass guides Rahim. Overnight Rahim is a hero. Praise and adulation come his way; release seems imminent. His creditor, embittered ex-brother-in-law Bahram (Mohsen Tanabandeh) is mistrustful, skeptical and seethes as praise is heaped on Rahim. The plot thickens when simple actions cast doubts; two-penny advice flows. Rahim’s impenetrable smile slips; he frets over his young son (Farrokh Nourbakht). As well, Bahram’s incensed since the unpaid debt affects daughter Nazanin’s (Sarina Farhadi) dowery. Unremitting frustration compels Rahim’s repeatedly rash actions. Although it is a confrontation with Bahram that sends his life spiraling uncontrollably.
Farhadi’s cobbled together a working-class morality tale that swelters under intense sun, crowded streets, and the screenplay’s sometimes incongruousness. The cast is formidable; Amir Jadidi and Mohsen Tanabandeh’s sparked discord is compelling. Some scenes seem stilted, or squeezed in to fit the overall action. Production values are solid from cinematographers Ali Ghazi and Arash Ramezani, editor Hayedeh Safiyari, sound mixer Mohammad Reza Delpak, and set designer Medhi Moosavi. Scrutinizing each simple act causes one to pause and consider the bureaucratically created ‘Catch 22’ situation – how can someone repay money when they cannot work? A Hero’s premise is one too many are familiar with. The film is Iran’s submission for the 94th Academy Award for Best International Feature Film. (Marinell Haegelin)