Review by Dan Skip Allen
Asghar Farhadi is a well-known Iranian director famous for his two Academy Award-winning films: A Separation in 2011 and The Salesman in 2016. He tends to put his characters through things that only Iranians can relate to, but on the big screen, everybody can get behind. A Hero is another film where it only applies to Iranians, but we as Americans can watch it and be wowed by how powerful his films are.
The film follows a man (Amir Jadidi) who is out of prison on furlough. While he's out, he finds a lady's purse on the ground by the bus stop. In the purse are seventeen gold pieces. The reason for his imprisonment is that he owes a debt, so finding the gold poses a dilemma for the man. Should he use the money to help himself clear his debt or try to find who the bag (and gold) belong to and return it to them? It's a tough decision for anybody, let alone this man who is in debt to creditors.
This story has a lot of moving pieces to it, including a charity that is trying to help this man by raising money for him, a television station that is trying to get his story out and the people can know his sacrifice. There are also doubters of the man's story who don't want him to be labeled a hero. This means a man's reputation is at hand. This is truly an Iranian story. This story couldn't be told in another country by another filmmaker.
Farhadi is a very proficient director from the point of view that he gets to the heart of the characters of the story he's telling. He's also the writer of the screenplay, so he knows the ins and out of the story. He knows what buttons to push to get the emotions from the characters and the drama out of them as well. He gets great performances from everybody involved in the film, but mainly the lead actor, Amir Jadidi. His face exudes pain, sorrow, suffering, and sometimes happiness and various moments in the film.
When a filmmaker tells a story, it has to get the audience watching to feel something for the characters. A Hero does that very effectively. The ups and downs of the story create drama. That, in turn, created something very cinematic and watchable. Even though this story and film are from another country, it's one of the best films of the year. Farhadi creates an atmosphere of dread as well as confusion while also trying to get us to feel for this man's plight. He goes through so much in two hours. It's an amazing achievement of cinema.
A Hero hits theaters on January 7 and Amazon Prime on January 21.