It’s been said that no good deed goes unpunished, and “A Hero” is a deeply human film that hits home (and hits hard) with that idea. Writer / director Asghar Farhadi‘s Cannes Grand Prix award winner explores a reality where even the simplest situation can become complex, and the best intentions can lead to a harmful outcome.
On a day pass from the prison where he has been serving time for unpaid debts, Rahim (Amir Jadidi, in one of the most effective performances of the year) unexpectedly finds a bag filled with valuable gold coins at a bus stop. Never stopping to ask why or how the money was left, Rahim sees salvation and hopes to use the coins to pay off his creditors, become a free man, and make his young son proud. When his attempts to repay are rejected, Rahim decides to do the right thing and return the money. He’s heralded as a hero for this altruistic act and becomes a local celebrity. But as a newspaper reporter begins to dig deeper, holes appear in the story. This sets off a snowball of half-truths, conflicts, assumptions, and misunderstandings that cast doubt on what was once viewed as a positive act.
The idea is simple but the story is complex. Rahim is a flawed man, but he isn’t a bad man. The human instinct of self-preservation is shown in a brutally honest light, and Farhadi is proficient in writing characters that are authentic and relatable. Throughout the story I felt a range of emotions towards Rahim, from suspicion to sympathy, from disappointment to concern. All of the characters are flawed, and one small lie leads to many others. It’s Rahim who decides the truth is always the right path, even when it seems nobody believes him.
While it may sound like the film heavily relies on the truism that “honest is the best policy,” it’s so much more than that. This moral drama explores the many (and oftentimes murky) definitions of what it means to be a hero.