The finest film Farhadi has put out in years—here he skilfully draws out a complex, delicate drama with weighty themes of morality, truth and honour from a simple premise: a debt-ridden prisoner and a bag of gold coins.
Dir. Asghar Fahardi
2021 | Iran | Drama | 127 mins | 2.39:1 | Persian
PG (passed clean) for some thematic elements and language
Cast: Amir Jadidi, Mohsen Tanabandeh, Sahar Goldust, Fereshteh Sadre Orafaiy, Sarina Farhadi
Plot: Rahim is in prison because of a debt he was unable to repay. During a two-day leave, he tries to convince his creditor to withdraw his complaint against the payment of part of the sum. But things don’t go as planned.
Awards: Won Grand Prix (Cannes)
International Sales: Memento International (SG: Anticipate Pictures)
Subject Matter: Moderate – Morality, Truth, Honour
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex – Intricate
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Apart from Radu Jude’s Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, I haven’t yet seen a better film from 2021 than A Hero, the latest from Iranian master Asghar Farhadi. It is the finest picture he has put out in years, even better than A Separation (2011) in my books.
In A Hero, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes, Farhadi skilfully draws out a complex drama from a simple premise: a debt-ridden prisoner and a bag of gold coins.
Rahim is in jail because of a debt that he cannot repay. Hoping to make full use of his two-day leave to convince his creditor to allow him to go back to his family if he pays in advance part of the owed amount, Rahim inadvertently opens one can of worms after another.
It’s a delight to see Farhadi at the top of his game—his delicate direction, the wonderfully-realised performances, the carefully layered narrative, etc.
“Why are you in jail?”
All of these are in service of rather weighty themes explored, including morality and ethics, the distortion of truth, and the personal stakes of honour and integrity.
Best of all, A Hero works like a thriller even though it’s not technically one—there’s enough suspense and unpredictability in the storytelling such that it unfolds in a way that would make you feel afraid for not just the protagonist, but everyone else related to him.
I don’t mean that Rahim or anyone else is in real physical danger, but just fearful that the aforementioned themes will conspire against the ‘good in people’ and become a monstrous weight far too heavy for anyone to bear.
Farhadi doesn’t for one moment judge who’s right or wrong, leaving us to think and empathise in the same vein. Society’s far too complicated to produce an easy answer, but under the director’s hands, he makes these complications easy to understand.
In a world where many prefer to leap to conclusions, clarity has always been that elusive first step.
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