Release Date – 21st January 2022, Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 8 minutes, Director – Asghar Farhadi
When given two days of parole from his prison sentence Rahim (Amir Jadidi) attempts to paint an image of himself as an honest, almost saintly, man in the hope of never going back, despite cynicism from his creditor (Mohsen Tanabandeh).
There’s so much about the general narrative of A Hero that could lead it to so easily fall into comedy that perhaps one of the most admirable things about it is that it’s mostly consistent in the dramatic tone in which it presents. Yes, there’s certainly room for chuckles every now and then, and it threatens to tip into farce as elements lead on to other occurrences, but largely the drama of writer-director Asghar Farhadi’s latest is somewhat set in stone. He follows the increasingly worried and desperate flight of Amir Jadidi’s Rahim as he tries to present the world with a narrative of his saintly actions, in the hope that his jail term for unpaid debts will be terminated, instead of remaining as the two days of parole which he has been given.
It all begins when his girlfriend Farkhondeh (Sahar Goldust) discovers a bag of gold coins, which when proved to not be worth very much are offered up as a found item. Rahim claims he found the bag when searching for the owner, attempting to paint himself in a good light with this heroic deed. While the world goes mad over his gradually increasing yarn, which soon requires family support – especially from his young son (Saleh Karimai); whose stammer is eventually used for sympathy points, and that from strangers, to keep things afloat, his creditor, Bahram (Mohsen Tanabandeh) remains cynical. There’s a strong cast at the centre of this piece, particularly Jadidi in the leading role, consistently reminding the viewer of the drama at play. This is a film that could so easily feel tired, calling back to features we’ve seen before with similar strands and narratives, if played out as an out and out comedy.
Everything sets up for the chaos that all the lies create in the second half. The winding roads of deception that are being spun out as increasing interested is shown towards the story of this lost bag of ‘valuable’ gold coins. As the second half arrives the risk of stepping into something farcical comes back into play, with the film luckily swerving to just about avoid it. Instead while the piece doesn’t quite lose steam it does somewhat dip as you feel the winding nature of the piece pushing along the run-time. While not by much the feeling that one or two scenes could be slightly trimmed down is present, especially as more is added on to make the initial deceit that bit more complex, eventually involving even more people. Rahim’s aim soon becomes not being out of jail for good, but simply not being found out so that he ends up in jail for even longer once he returns.
It’s something you can see running through his mind during a number of the lengthier ensemble conversations, where most of the occasional humour lies in such effective interactions. An increased panic spreading through his eyes with each addition to the elaborate tale he’s telling, with each new detail he needs to craft and, more importantly, remember. All with suspicion and doubt being cast upon him, and an ever-looming creditor (Tanabandeh also on excellent form), insistent on payment before he considers anything to do with Rahim’s jail term.
Such elements and interactions, while occasionally somewhat lengthy, act as some of the highlights of the film as the characters get the opportunity to, while initially through a kind of mediator, bounce off each other and play a, sometimes unknowing, role in the developing course of Rahim’s tale. It eventually pushes the run-time a bit beyond where it would perhaps be better suited, but overall there’s a solid drama to be found within A Hero. One that while occasional straying towards farce in the winding nature of the second half manages to keep its head above water thanks to a selection of fine performances that recognise the drama in the script and bring that about to stop a tired comedic tone coming through.
While a bit overlong, because of the winding additions to the initial lie of Jadidi’s finely performed central character, A Hero never fully strays into comedy or farce. While there are some chuckles the performances largely remind you that what is playing out is a piece of drama.