(4.5/5) A Hero is a devastatingly remarkable and realist tale that enraptures audiences from opening shot to closing, with its sharp writing and even-keeled direction.
FILMDRAMATHRILLERIRANIANAGUSTIN NOGUERA VILLEGAS
Much of the buzz behind this year’s race in the International Film category has been centered on whether legendary Iranian director and screenwriter Asghar Farhadi will take the golden statue home for a third time with his latest film, A Hero (2021). And just like with A Separation (2011) and The Salesman (2016), Farhadi has managed to create yet another riveting, simple drama filled with torturous dilemmas and tortuous moral complexities.
Amir Jadidi plays Rahim, a handsome and charming calligrapher currently in prison for failure to repay his debt collector, who is given a two-day leave. On his first day off, he meets up with his girlfriend Farkhondeh (Sahar Goldust), who had previously found a purse at a bus stop filled with gold coins. After a pawnshop owner tells them the amount they would be given for the gold would not be enough to repay his debt, thus crushing his chances being acquitted and thus having his honor restored, Rahim decides to put up flyers announcing he found the bag and for the owner to contact him by calling the prison’s own phone line.
The question of whether he put the flyers up to be potentially placed in a position of being seen as a hero by his community is deliberately left unanswered. But soon the prison receives a call from a woman who is able to claim the purse and gold coins. Due to the happy ending of the woman, the community rallies on behalf of Rahim, schedules a charity event to raise funds for him, and his story of how he returned the money is told on newspapers and TV. And it is from here where things for Rahim become infuriatingly serious and a collapsing level-after-level of a social breakdown.
Shot with Signature Prime lenses on a Alexa Mini LF, Farhadi’s vision as a realist shines through. With stationary long takes, handheld style camera work, a purposely-missing musical score, and an ensemble of mostly first-time film actors, Farhadi asks of the audience to consider that, perhaps, what is shown on the screen is nothing short of a documentary, of real events happening in real time to real people.
As the story progresses, it builds upon its established tense, labyrinthine drama that compromises the audience into its moral gradation. When it is disclosed that Rahim’s relationship with his girlfriend is kept a secret, due to his status as an inmate and a divorcee, the audience stumbles to guess where the narrative will go from here, as there is always something that is not being thoroughly considered. Every character in Farhadi’s world has something to say, a moral dilemma and reason for their actions.
It’s a real shame Farhadi’s films are mostly relegated to the International category – when it clearly should be in consideration for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Jadidi) and Best Supporting Actor for both Mohsen Tanabandeh, who plays the relentless debt collector, and Saleh Karimaei, who plays Siavash, the son of Rahim. The Screen Actors Guild missed their opportunity to honor the entire ensemble by not recognizing the film with a nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. After securing a spot in the December Shortlist, A Hero will definitely be seen at the Oscars.
A delicately constructed tapestry of human behavior, Farhadi manages in 127 minutes to create another realist gem. And Jadidi manages to carve for himself a spot as one of the best actors working today by turning in a restrained and remarkably alluring performance as the always-smiling Rahim. A Hero is a must for anyone attempting to craft a list of the best movies of 2021.
Not to mention, it has one of the greatest closing shots of 2021, and possibly ever.
**A Hero is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.