Asghar Farhadi’s latest work, A Hero, uses his usual whip-smart yet tough-as-nails approach to deliver a tale of secrets and lies via the entanglement of a simple act of “kindness”.
Asghar Farhadi, one of the best international filmmakers working today, never ceases to amaze me. Not only are his films poignant discerning tales about the effects that truths, lies, and misbeliefs have on human behavior, but they also show us the different phases of how a person’s genuine desire, either good or bad, develops throughout hard-hearted or compassionate situations. From A Separation to The Past, Farhadi examines the various junctures of morality. It’s impressive how he has stuck with those themes throughout his filmography yet delivers one intellectual work after another. His latest film, the Cannes Grand Prix-winner, A Hero, weaves through a triad collision between motivation, determination, and intention with the same sharpness of the work that made his name known.
The film centers around Rahim (Amir Jadidi), who is in prison because of a debt he couldn’t repay. During a two-day leave he tries to convince the people in charge to withdraw his grievance against said payment. Later, as if it was a sign from the gods, he finds a bag of gold coins at a bus stop and wants to seek out the owner so that he can return it. This now establishes a battle of ethics versus motivation. His first thought is to sell the coins, but he realizes that the cost won’t be enough to cover the debt he has. Because of that, he decides to return them and cause a chain of events that might lead to a path of rehabilitation in the public eye. He becomes a “hero” of sorts–the face for a better and honest world in a place that needs one.
However, his “good deed” will soon enough come with some backlash. Everybody knows that once a character in a movie finds a bag of money (gold coins in this case), their life will never be the same or, on the worst occasion, they won’t live to see another day. Rahim, played incredibly by Jadidi, is in that same situation. At first his strategy works and the people celebrate him for the principle and virtuous fiber in his decision. Then, however, his glory starts getting on a rocky road when questions about the timing and legitimacy of the act emerge. Does he deserve to be praised for not taking advantage of the circumstance? His creditor seems to think that it is the same as singing the praises of man for not committing a crime. This is where Farhadi excels as both a writer and a director– the collision of principles in a situation that gets tighter and tighter.
And the beauty of it is that it’s a simple tale to tell yet, in his hands, it forms into something very complex and intuitive. You want to root for him though you understand the creditor’s point of view while knowing Rahim’s true intentions. A Hero doesn’t dwell around the political or religious ideals of its setting. Instead, it focuses on the values and sensibilities of the Islamic society. The third act reveals multiple dramatic nuances and keeps the audience guessing the conclusion of the once called gesture of “kindness”. Farhadi doesn’t want to give you any easy answers and makes sure each predicament is felt in a realistic fashion, causing the end product to be as engrossing as some of his best work.