There are so many interesting and intriguing aspects to the Iranian film, “A Hero” by writer/director Asghar Farhadi. Not least of which is its creative premise, which is full of social angst and moral dilemmas, and the lead actor, Amir Jadidi. His performance is seamless, pure and utterly compelling. The movie and the performance hearken to the likes of masterpieces of the Italian Neo-realism era, such as “Umberto D” and “Bicycle Thieves.” Rahim (Amir Jadidi) is in prison because of a debt he was unable to repay.
Taking place in Shiraz, Iran and during a two-day leave, Rahim tries to convince his creditor to withdraw his complaint against the payment of part of the sum, but things don’t go as planned. Between the time he began his leave and inquired about the complaint against him, he found gold coins in a bag near the bus stop. Instead of using the found coins, he searched for the rightful owner and returned them. Initially his act of kindness was applauded in the community, with many supporting him in his request to have the complaint withdrawn. Just as quickly as people were on his side and championing his cause, they turned against him and things spiraled out of control. What should have been a simple request and seemingly simple right thing to do, becomes anything but simple. Initially, the audience believes there is just this one side to the story and they sympathize. But we quickly learn there is definitely many sides to the story, and right and wrong is not black and white. It is all the nuanced, messy in betweens where director Asghar Farhadi clearly excels.
Farhadi is best known for his 2011 stunning film, “A Separation,” which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. With “A Hero” he shows even more growth and greatness. He conveys his universal themes and issues more straight forwardly, with less metaphors. Characters are neither bad nor good; they are flawed and human. Situations are not right or wrong; they are complex and challenging. But as unique as the story is, and as interesting as the characters are, one cannot understate the pitch perfect performance by Jadidi who is in almost every frame driving the plot and stealing your heart. While “A Hero” is a strong contender, if not a lock, for the Oscar’s Best Foreign Language film, it should actually be nominated in the Best Film category.