Film: ‘A Hero’ (Running in Theatres); Duration: 128 minutes
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Amir Jadidi, Mohsen Tanabandeh, Sahar Goldust, Saleh Karimaei, Fereshteh Sadre Orafaiy, Sarina Farhadi, Ehsan Goodarzi, Alireza Jahandideh, Maryam Shahdaei
IANS Rating: ****
Deceptively simple, Asghar Farhadi’s ‘A Hero’ (Ghahreman) is a cinematic, art-house masterpiece, a gripping moral drama about honesty, honour, and the price of freedom.
Set in the Iranian city of Shiraz, it is the tale of Rahim (Amir Jadidi), a sincere and earnest calligraphist who is serving time in prison for unpaid debts to his ex-brother-in-law Braham (Mohsen Tanbandeh). He is desperate to be reunited with his son from his earlier marriage and his girlfriend Farkhondeh (Sahar Goldust), who he is secretly seeing, and plans to marry soon.
So, when his girlfriend tells him that she has found a handbag containing 17 gold coins, he thinks of selling the coins to pay off his debtor, and he attempts this when he is allowed a two-day leave from prison.
But fate has other plans for him. The day he goes to sell the coins, the gold rates fall and is not enough to pay off the debtors. To make matters worse the goldsmith’s pen too, doesn’t seem to work. Taking these as signs from the Universe guilt gnaws him, and he decides to return the gold to its rightful owner. Since the handbag was found at a bus stop, he decides to put up posters in the vicinity.
A lady claiming to be the rightful owner claims the bag and the coins, and soon Rahim’s good Samaritan act attracts attention, and his story makes headlines on the news and social media platforms. Seeing the positive attention that he is garnering, the officers at the prison, where he returns once his leave has ended, coax him, to give news bytes, and soon he is heralded as a hero.
But not everyone buys Rahim’s story, certainly not his former brother-in-law, who only wants what he’s owed. He questions all those who praise Rahim, “Should people be glorified for simply doing the right thing?” And the people around realise that he does have a point. He also warns them that people’s motives are always more complicated than what they appear.
Furthermore, when Rahim is asked to substantiate his act, he can’t trace the woman who had claimed the money and is thus, thrown into a moral dilemma. How he manoeuvres through the situation forms the foundation of this narrative.
The plot navigates effortlessly through the complicated moral dilemmas, genuineness of human goodness, and waning principles.
The bittersweet relationship between the characters and the realistic performances from its ace cast is what elevates the viewing experience. Some of the film’s most moving scenes show Rahim trying to reconnect with his son Saivash (Saleh Karimaei) and shield him from the consequences of shame and scandal. These scenes invariably remind you of Vittorio De Sica’s 1949 released ‘Bicycle Thieves’.
Overall, ‘A Hero’ is two-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi’s best film to date.