Review: A Hero

Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, Rahim is in prison because of a debt he was unable to repay. During a two-day leave, he tries to convince his creditor to withdraw his complaint against the payment of part of the sum. But things don’t go as planned. Starring: Mohsen Tanabandeh, Amir Jadidi, Alireza Jahandideh, Sahar Goldust, Fereshteh Sadre Orafaiy and Ehsan Goodarzi.

The fascinating thing about this latest dramatic instalment from Asghar Farhadi, is that you may either love it or it may drive you mad, that’s the type unrelenting realism Farhadi captures. It’s intensely slow and entirely unforgiving, diving into a rabbit hole of making the wrong decision for the right reasons then just digging yourself in further as you try to make your way out. The sense of desperation coming from this story is beyond palpable. This is not one of those stories about a journey to the happy ending, it’s a searing look into how life can keep kicking you while you’re down. It also delves into an interesting discussion on perception, rumours and assumptions and their usually unfortunate consequences. However, while its first half sets up an interesting dilemma, the descent into painstakingly frustrating territory results in an ultimately unrewarding experience.

The desperation and fear this story builds is perfectly personified by the fantastically frantic, sympathetic and poetically pitiful portrayal of Rahim by Amir Jadidi. It’s decidedly intense and heart-breaking, he wears his heart on his sleeve throughout in an almost punishing manner. It’s potentially even part of what makes the story so painfully slow in its second half, because you sympathise deeply and want him to make better choices when he simply can’t. Sahar Goldust is a great choice as Farkhondeh, they have a touching chemistry and her love for him adds a touch of hope in an otherwise bleak landscape.

Although visually it’s not as drab as it may sound, the directorial style matches its intensity rather than its bleak themes. It never steps outside of the everyday tone but holds a depth and texture to its cinematography (by Ali Ghazi and Arash Ramezani). The direction surprisingly feels as though it holds a faster pace than the story itself, it will forward where the writing relentlessly pushes back.

A Hero is a divisive drama, unflinching in its portrayal of a punishing reality, a man who is rapidly losing hope for a better future. Amir Jadidi gives a stunningly exhaustive performance of the unenviable experience of Rahim. It will be phenomenal and heart-rending for some but unrewarding and potentially painful for others.

Verdict: ✯✯½ | 5/10

In UK Cinemas 7 January 2022

Reviewed as part of London Film Festival 2021

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