REVIEW: ‘A Hero’ Feels Familiar yet Still Gripping

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A Hero - But why tho

In some ways, A Hero feels like a retread of two-time Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi’s earlier works. It lacks the potency and devastation of his 2011 masterpiece, A Separation. Still, the film gives us profound character work and a gripping yet straightforward plot in the best way Farhadi knows how. The way he tells seemingly simple stories, primarily domestic, and enraptures the audience in a moral quandary seen through multiple points of view is astounding.

In A Hero, we’re introduced to Rahim (Amir Jadidi), an inmate who has been granted a brief 2-day leave. He’s been jailed because of a debt from a  loan shark he hasn’t been able to pay and uses his short time as a free man cooking up a scheme to pay off the massive debt he left behind. In classic Asghar Farhadi fashion, Rahim involves multiple people in his simple scheme but soon finds out it is more complicated than he anticipated.

Amir Jadidi is charming and has a disarming smile that makes you wonder what could be behind his warm embrace? He enlists the help of his lover, Malileh (Maryam Shahdaei), when she finds an abandoned handbag containing 17 gold coins and devises a plan to stage a good deed and ultimately be exonerated. The plan sounds like it could work, but nothing is more unpredictable than human behavior, and so the stage is set for a 2-hour rumination on the value and suspicion of a good deed. What makes A Hero work so well is how Farhadi crafts his characters; they feel so starkly real that, at times, I had to check whether or not they were actors or real people.

The realism is striking, and the dialogue feels true. There is one scene where Rahim after his plan seemingly goes off without a hitch, is offered a job opportunity. Still, before he could complete his application, he is told he needs to have his “story” verified by human resources. This is where it all falls apart, and the merry-go-round of morality begins to spin. His story is predicated on a lie but not entirely. As complicated as it sounds, other parties involved do not buy his heroic tale.

Rahim is well-intentioned, but he’s also a quietly desperate man, gradually boiling inside. His smile is infectious, but he’s a man running out of rope. The film opens with him walking up an endless set of stairs affixed to the tomb of Xerxes for several minutes, hinting at his perpetual downfall. After getting out of prison, he’s there to meet with his brother-in-law Hossein (Alireza Jahandideh). Rahim tells him that he doesn’t plan to go back to jail and thinks he can talk to his creditor Bahram (Mohsen Tanabandeh) to pay off a portion of the debt with a promise to pay the rest. Still, Hossein scoffs at the idea, saying, “If talking to him had made a difference, he wouldn’t have sent you to jail.” It is a great line and perfectly encapsulates what our titular hero will have to go through to get what he wants.

Like in A Separation, the movie is awash in light brown, whites, and greys and gives off a feeling of calmness and domesticity. It almost lulls you into thinking everything is going to be alright. After all, Rahim has a decent support system with Hossein, his sister, Malileh, and his young son, and eventually, the help of an unexpected source. A Hero’s only flaw is that it borrows a bit too much from movies like A Separation and 2016’s The Salesman. You almost know how it’ll end because Farhadi ends his films the same, melancholy way. It won’t be satisfying, it won’t be fulfilling,  and you’ll end up with the feeling of, “What was the point?” The same applies here to A Hero, which ends on a whimper and doesn’t land the lasting punch A Separation did.

For those new to Farhadi’s films, you’ll find an engrossing tale that is simple yet told in complex ways. For those looking for another breakthrough film of his, you won’t find it here, but you’ll find a gripping movie with tight dialogue and some sparkling acting.

A Hero will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video on January 7, 2022.


A Hero
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

For those new to Farhadi’s films, you’ll find an engrossing tale that is simple yet told in complex ways. For those looking for another breakthrough film of his, you won’t find it here, but you’ll find a gripping movie with tight dialogue and some sparkling acting.