When you watch a movie by Asghar Farhadi, you know that a potentially simple story is always a vessel for more complexity and an examination of human behavior. A Separation is about as impeccable an example of this as it gets. So, in a way, Farhadi has set the bar quite high for himself. That unfortunately looms large during A Hero, since this can’t rise to the level of that one. At the same time, it’s still pretty good and a largely compelling effort. Playing at the Toronto International Film Festival, its small flaws don’t prevent you from considering the foibles of the human condition.
A Hero has the complex point of view that Farhadi executes with surgical precision. The writing isn’t as on par with his directing this time around, but it’s clearly a film of his. It mainly just suffers by comparison. Without prior knowledge of his movies, this would probably be one of the stronger works here at TIFF. Knowing what he’s capable of, it does noticeably feel like a bit of a step down from that pinnacle. Make of that what you will.
Rahim (Amir Jadidi) is out on a two day leave from his prison sentence, which he’s serving because of an unpaid debt. During this time, plans tries to try and convince his creditor to withdraw his complaint against him, allowing him to go free. In order to do this, he’ll need to find quite a bit of money in short order. Luckily, his secret girlfriend Farkhondeh (Sahar Goldust) has found a bag chock full of gold coins. Unfortunately, there aren’t quite enough coins, so Rahim pivots. Telling people that he found the coins and returned the bag to its rightful owner, he’s portrayed as a good samaritan and even a hero. But, his creditor isn’t having it. Unmoved by the situation, the clock continues to tick.
Before long, social media gets wind of Rahim’s story and he becomes a minor celebrity. The internet and social media being what it is, however, that’s short lived. Almost immediately, rumors begin swirling that he’s a con man, having made up the story. His past misdeeds don’t help things, either, leading to Rahim fighting to clear his name, as well as potentially still stay out of jail. All the while, his young son watches his father flounder.
Led by a wonderful Amir Jadidi, the acting here is part of what makes this such a compelling work. Jadidi makes Rahim equally lovable and also a little bit slimy. You spend almost the entire film wondering if he’s truly a good guy or a bad guy. This being a Farhadi flick, obviously there isn’t a simple answer to be found. In addition to the aforementioned Sahar Goldust, the cast includes Alireza Jahandideh, Mohsen Tanabandeh, and more.
Asghar Farhadi is an incredibly efficient director. Unfortunately, while his direction is again nearly flawless, his screenplay isn’t quite that great. A Hero winds up feeling like a story you’ve seen before. Of course, the script pursues Farhadi’s interests, but the deep originality that you normally find in his movies isn’t as visible here. It’s a small complaint, but it was noticeable to me.
A Hero isn’t A Separation. Just know that going in. It also may wind up being a bit too small for the Academy Awards. Regardless of that, it’s more compelling work from Asghar Farhadi. Moving to Amazon Prime Video via Amazon Studios later on this year, following this TIFF showing, it’s certainly worth looking out for. Especially if you like Farhadi’s work, this will be more of the same.