The knotty moral suspense of an Asghar Farhadi is a genre all its own. Building quietly at first before it spirals into a web of compromise, guilt, strained forgiveness and tragic consequence, his latest film A Hero travels down some of these same complicated paths. If it’s not as potent as his previous films, A Hero still reverberates with the precision of a master filmmaker’s pulse on the tenuous divisions of class and society.
The ‘everyman’ we meet in the prolonged open as he wanders out of jail and to a historic excavation sight in Iran is Rahim (Amir Jadidi). Here, he meets his brother in law and travels to meet his family and spend time with them during his brief release. Incarcerated for not paying his debts to his ex father-in-law, Farhadi paints Rahim as a decent soul, certainly jailed for something that probably more than half of our population have defaulted on in their lifetime.
Rahim’s good nature is further positioned when he and his girlfriend (Sahar Goldust) find a lost purse full of gold coins. Although their initial impulse is to sell the contents, Rahim instead chooses to find the owner. From this simple act of compassion from a man who could certainly use the money, A Hero spins a complex tale of infighting and political subterfuge as, not only are his motivations called into question, but it forces Rahim to collide against the very forces that have imprisoned him in the first place.
Taking a literate gambit that’s dotted great literature for ages (and holds its own phrase about no good deed etc),. Farhadi’s Cannes prize winning film makes one wonder if doing anything for anyone is ever a wise genuflection. And what’s most illuminating about A Hero is the moral shades of grey that Rahim goes through.
At once a local hero for his honest actions, the whole society soon turns against him. But what makes the film so good isn’t the abrupt shifts of narrative, but how the film makes us feel about Rahim. Like the ever shifting couple in his A Separation (2011) or my personal favorite of his About Elly (2009), Farhadi gives us stories about complex individuals who cannot be housed with cozy identification. His men and women are real, three dimensional, and often set awash in an society that values order and class above everything else. That Rahim tries to break free of his lower class and is swatted down like a fly tells one everything they need to know about Farhadi’s faith in said society. A Hero is yet another example of this in a long career of masterworks.
A Hero opens in the Dallas/Fort Worth area on Friday January 7th at the following theaters: Angelika Dallas and Plano locations and the Grand Berry Theatre in Fort Worth.
The film will be available on Amazon Prime Video beginning January 21st.