'A Hero' review: Powerful tale from Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi
MOVIE "A Hero"
WHERE Streaming on Prime Video
WHAT IT'S ABOUT "A Hero," the new movie from the renowned Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, tells the story of a man named Rahim (Amir Jadidi), serving a prison term for failing to repay a debt. During a two-day leave in the city of Shiraz, he becomes swept up in a drama that becomes a media sensation.
His girlfriend Farkhondeh (Sahar Goldoost) has found a handbag filled with gold coins, which Rahim decides to return to its rightful owner, instead of keeping to pay off his debt. When the TV cameras are made aware of this and feature the story, doubts about the veracity of the tale begin to spread.
Any new movie by Farhadi, a two-time Academy Award winner for his films "A Separation" and "The Salesman," stands as a major event for fans of international cinema. "A Hero" is streaming on Prime Video.
MY SAY Over the course of a career that has spanned nine feature directorial efforts, Farhadi has established a particularly keen sense of how to make movies that are both deeply personal and highly political.
That's not to suggest his work trades in obvious statements or empty platitudes. Farhadi is too smart for that. His preferred method tends to be naturalistic understatement.
That allows for work that belies easy processing. Stories of families stressed by familiar challenges become entwined with larger questions about societal values.
"A Hero" revolves around a media frenzy and the way it impacts the protagonist and the people closest to him. But whereas an American movie on the subject might be swept up in the noise, Farhadi opts for quiet.
He maintains his focus on Rahim and his family as they experience this sudden swirl of attention and the questions that come with it.
Jadidi's performance forgoes theatrics for small but meaningful gestures: a proud smile as he's hailed for his honesty by neighbors, relatives and especially his son; a dead stare that's latent with the weight of the past when his conduct is questioned.
And there's a pervasive mystery: we don't actually know much about Rahim, what he has done to land himself in this position, or how sincere he's being about any of it.
There's a rich sense of this man, even in a performance captured largely through reactions to others, amid a screenplay that's purposefully elliptical in the ways it presents the protagonist. That's enhanced by his epic struggle to prove his trustworthiness in a society that has placed many roadblocks in his path.
With a feeling of deep loneliness looming above it all, Farhadi utilizes these ambiguities to pursue a story that questions whether Rahim's conduct is really that of a hero, or, as a character says, simply a person "not doing wrong." There are no answers, but there's a lot to recognize in this allegorical tale, and even more worth thinking about.
BOTTOM LINE "A Hero" is not the most essential Farhadi movie, but its best qualities exemplify what makes him such an important filmmaker.