Film & TV

Film Review: A Hero

When a man imprisoned for debt finds a bag of gold coins, his life takes an unexpected turn

Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi’s new feature has been eagerly anticipated, his last having been released in 2018.

A Hero tells the story of Rahim, sent to prison for being unable to pay a large debt. When his partner Farkhondeh, finds a handbag full of gold coins, Rahim takes a two-day leave from prison to cash them in and pay off some of his debt. Conscience finally gets the better of him, and he decides instead to find the owner of the lost bag, and return the coins to her. Thus begins a series of narrative twists and turns.

This modern morality tale is seeped in Abrahamic ethical questions, and symbology: it isn’t cash Farkhondeh finds, but gold coins; there are scenes with money-changers (gold dealers); Rahim is a calligrapher by trade; and the setting itself is the birthplace of Abrahamic tradition, the Middle-East. At its heart, A Hero is an exploration of the concept of truth. Who speaks it? Who judges it? Who rejects it? And what, fundamentally, is it? Every character in this story clings to their own, slightly distorted, version of the truth. The only character who consistently speaks with authenticity, is Rahim’s son, Siavash, who struggles to get the words out, due to a significant stutter.

Amir Jadidi puts in a quietly stunning performance as Rahim, giving us a conflicted man, and a character who we both sympathise with, and are annoyed by. Renowned actor and writer Mohsen Tanabandeh takes on the difficult role of Bahram, the debtor who has put Rahim in prison. Farhadi’s writing takes us on an emotional journey with Bahram, moving from hatred, to sympathy.

Every performance in this extraordinary film is faultless. Young actor Saleh Karimaei embodies the role of of Siavash with maturity and sincerity. Sahar Goldust delivers a passionate and fiery Farkhondeh. Under Farhadi’s gentle guidance, A Hero, despite its varied settings, becomes an ensemble piece.

The prison, the alleyways, the houses, and the shopping centre, locations where most of the action takes place, are all lovingly shot by cinematographers Ali Ghazi and Arash Ramezani. Editor Hayedeh Safiyari has put together a film that flows gently, whilst maintaining narrative suspense. At two hours long, this is a piece of cinematic art which never lags or drags, and yet keeps an easy pace while it works its way under the audience’s skin.

A Hero raises more questions than it answers. We are left wondering, who the bad guy really is, or whether there are only bad socio-economic structures, within which, everyone is a victim. But one question it does answer is whether Farhadi is one of the best directors working in cinema today, to which the answer is a resounding “Yes!”.
This is undoubtedly one of the best films released in Australia this year.

A Hero opens on June 9th and will be screening at Palace Nova Eastend and Prospect.

Outstanding, moving, masterful, cinema 5 stars

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