★★★★ - STUFF
- Cannes-winning drama a compelling look at the nature of celebrity -
From A Separation to A Salesman by way of The Past, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi has crafted some of the most memorable domestic dramas of the last decade.
Delivered in a naturalistic, observational style and featuring very specific, but globally identifiable relationship crises, his stories have rightfully struck a chord with cinemagoers around the world.
Now after a slight stumble with Spanish language thriller Everybody Knows, Farhadi is back on home turf – and in fine form – with A Hero.
When we first meet Rahim Soltani (Amir Jadidi), he’s trying to put his life back on track. On a two-day release from prison, he believes he may have finally found a way to pay his former father-in-law Bahram (Mohsen Tanabandeh) the money he’s been long owed.
The calligrapher and sign writer had asked Bahram for a loan to help start a business, but his partner bailed, and acrimony built as the debt remained. Now though, a slice of luck could change everything.
Unfortunately, the price of gold isn’t what it was and Rahim’s “handbag of coins” can’t cover everything. A tentative deal is struck for half-payment now, the rest from his wages once he’s out of prison and potentially earning again, but Bahram remains somewhat unconvinced. “There have been so many meetings, so many promises. He let down his family, and I was already fooled once by that hangdog look,” he growls.
Moving in with his sister Malileh, Rahim finds himself on the defensive when she becomes suspicious about how he actually acquired the bag of coins. Agreeing to try and track down its original owner, he strikes gold when a woman comes forward admitting it was money she had earned from weaving and had been trying to hide from her disapproving husband.
While that means a trip back to prison for Rahim, local media seize on his selfless act, dubbing him a hero and helping whip up a clamour for his release. However, still one man remains unmoved. “He’s been bullsh…ing people all his life,” Bahram rages, sure that the whole thing is a stunt designed to restore Rahim’s reputation, in a last-ditch bid to dissuade his daughter – Rahim’s ex-wife – from her impending plans to remarry.
What follows is an absorbing and compelling look at the power of perception and the nature of celebrity, how it can be used to manipulate, and the difference between lying and not telling the truth.
Inspired by the true story of Mohammad Reza Shokri (who attempted to sue Farhadi for defamation in one of a couple of court cases that have surrounded the film’s genesis and production), writer-director Farhadi piles up the narrative twists and turns, cleverly ensuring the audience are never quite sure who to believe and what truly has transpired.
It all builds to a terrifically tense finale, as Rahim’s increasingly elaborate plans threaten to unravel and take others down with him.
By the end, you’ll be hard pressed not to be engrossed and fully emotionally invested in the overall outcome and the fate of all those involved.
- James Croot, STUFF
A Hero is now playing at Light House Cinema
(In Persian with English subtitles)