Focusing on a sad set of complications, director Asghar Farhadi once again finds universal human difficulties for his new release, A Hero. As he did in his international Oscar winner A Separation, Farhadi shows pervasive ways people respond to everyday emotions. Setting his story in Iran, Farhadi uses elements suited to British literary giants.
Main character Rahim fits the Charles Dickens mold as a man stuck in debtor’s prison, a system where inmates can pay their way out—but of course, that takes money. In a Shakespearean manner, Rahim’s access to money involves deception, and as Sir Walter Scott points out, lies lead to tangled webs.
Tangled for Rahim that is; as a masterful storyteller, director Farhadi makes action clear, compelling, and ultimately, exasperating. Rahim deserves to move forward with his life. Unfortunately, both he and the system repeatedly sabotage that progress, both purposefully and accidentally as events give Rahim a heroic image he knows he doesn’t deserve. Displaying a mix of warmth, goodness, and weakness, actor Amir Jadidi encourages empathy for Rahim, one of those people who always seem to get themselves into a deeper hole.
Other characters contribute to Rahim’s problems, through meanness, naivete, jealousy and more, which leads to the movie’s eventual overriding sense of frustration. Instead of moving forward, Rahim and the plot come to a standstill, stuck with an absorbing past that goes nowhere. A Hero provides valid observations about society and people without offering hope about significant change or growth. Realistic? Sure. But sad.
The Grand Prix award winner at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, A Hero made it on the short list for foreign film Oscar contenders.