A Hero

A Hero

A Hero (2021) | presently playing on Mubi
Writer-Director: Asghar Farhadi

Cannes Grand Prix
Cannes François Chalais Award


A tale of moral dilemma and human greed, the characters in ‘A Hero’ struggle between their baser instincts and the need to be honourable.

Sent to jail for not being able to pay off his debt, Rahim, played by the captivating Amir Jadidi, hits the jackpot when his girlfriend finds a bag of gold. He takes a special leave from jail to pay off his creditor, Bahram. What starts off as a simple film of ‘will he’ or ‘will he not’ be able to pay off his debt story progresses into an intricate plot with twists and turns that keep the viewers on the edge of their seats. Every time one thinks that Rahim has found a solution, there is another problem lurking in the corner.

Caution: spoilers ahead
When Rahim gets the gold to pay off his debt, he has a problem with the bond cheques. He then returns the gold and becomes a local hero for being selfless. However, it is followed by rumours that his story is false. Fortunately, he is not caught when he passes off his girlfriend as the owner of the gold as he can’t find the true owner to prove his innocence. But that happiness is short-lived when he gets into a fight with Bahram and the money collected by an NGO for his debt is instead given to a cellmate with a death sentence. We reach the end with no silver lining to save Rahim this time as he has to accept his fate and go back to jail. The only sliver of hope he gets is when he keeps his honour and the happiness he gets from freeing the death row inmate with the money meant for him.

Farhadi’s films are always a delight to watch from being technically strong and aesthetically pleasing to being heart-wrenching and having a poignant script full of meanings and ethical angst. We begin the film with the marvels of Iran as we are taken to the tomb of Xerxes, the king of the first Persian Empire and how his greed led to him losing control over Greece, just like Rahim, who lost control after he got a taste of fame.

We also see parallels between Rahim’s story and that of a woman with whom he interacts. She has a reason to act dodgy. For a similar reason, Rahim too isn’t pleased that people are mistaking his agency. A master in symbolism, Farhadi continues to give us several moments that reflect Rahim’s moods from the beautifully shot frames to the apt folk music. We also see writer Farhadi’s signature of playing with morals and ethical themes without being too didactic from the inhumanities of prison, and women, the unsung heroes to the fragile foundation of honour.

All of the characters are relatable and fleshed out. Amir Jadidi faithfully carries out his role as Rahim, the wistful gentleman. One feels frustrated for him and his situation as he forces the viewer to walk in his shoes. He’s anything but a hero but makes the viewer root for him nonetheless. He is also a grey character as he starts off as a righteous man. He continues to reiterate that his honour is more important than money and freedom. Eventually, though, honour becomes synonymous with a reputation as he could care less about the truth and saves face by taking credit for others’ selfless acts.

Sahar Goldoost plays Rahim’s girlfriend Farkondeh, another relatable character as she is torn between wanting to free Rahim and doing the right thing. However, her love overrides honour as she takes part in deceptive acts to make sure Rahim retains his honour. We also get his son, the little Saleh Karimaei’ Siavash who is not just a prop to create sympathy for his father. The viewers feel for the child actor, his character’s frustration on not being able to voice the injustice being done to his father which he silently witnesses, and his misguided rage that unfortunately gets directed at Rahim as he is the only one there for Siavash.

‘A Hero’ is a good film but one with a sense of desolation, which we could do without. The pacing is inconsistent as we have a strong first half focusing on a mystery, followed by a rushed second half with too many plot twists that could have been evenly spaced throughout the film with crisp editing. The script could also be revised as every time there is something good, something bad follows i.e., the plot twist that the viewer starts anticipating. While the plot twists create irony and keep the film engaging, they also happen to be the downfall of the script as it creates a predictive pattern.



IMDb link of A Hero.

Film Reviews

Lopamudra Jena Kaul is a film journalist with a Masters degree in literature. Her writings have appeared in leading newspapers such as Mathrubhumi (English edition), Dainik Janambhumi (Assam) and Kerala Kaumudi (Kerala). She assisted a juror at GAIFF–2015 and a film critic at IFFI–2016.  And is a regular at the Cannes Film Festival, holding a blue Press card.

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