By Jake Coyle Associated Press
In Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s films, relatively simple scenarios – a divorce, a missing wife, a newly lent apartment – unfold in such complex cascading developments that it’s no surprise that a purse found stuffed with gold coins leads to countless fluctuations of fortune and anguish in his latest “A Hero”.
In movies, we tend to reserve the term “magician” for more spectacle-oriented filmmakers who create visual effects illusions. But Farhadi’s mastery is at least equally spellbinding, even if it’s rooted in realistic domestic dramas, Tehran’s traffic usually buzzing all around. His films (including Oscar winners “A Separation” and “A Salesman”, the first masterpiece “About Elly” and the French drama “The Past”) are schematically drawn, full of twists so seamless that they are invisible. Elaborate mechanics are cleverly hidden within gripping and carefully observed stories. Before you know it, a melodrama of modern life has been woven so tightly with psychological suspense you can barely breathe.
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“A Hero,” in which Farhadi returns to his native Iran after traveling to Spain for “Everybody Knows” in 2018, is one of the most labyrinthine moral tales you’re likely to encounter. Rahim (Amir Jadidi) is imprisoned for a debt he couldn’t pay. We meet him for the first time as he eagerly takes a two-day leave, meeting his girlfriend Farkhondeh (Sahar Goldust), who clings to his lucky discovery, the one who can release his love and allow them to be together. marry. The gold discovered, however, is not enough to satisfy his creditor, a miserly printing shop owner named Hossein (Ali Reza Jahandideh). Rahim makes the decision to instead report the lost bag and return it to its owner.
How altruistic or a bit of self-preservation trickery this decision is is open to interpretation. Played by Jadidi, Rahim has an insinuating hang-dog look; he almost always smiles, unless worry has clouded his expression. We are, without a doubt, rooting for him. Rahim’s good deed earns him many accolades for his selflessness. Prison officials rush to invite television cameras to broadcast Rahim’s story, which then spreads like wildfire on social media. Donations are pouring in that could free Rahim from his debt.
Happy ending, right? No, “A Hero” is just beginning. Farhadi’s film, which he also wrote, becomes more and more complicated with fictions to cover truths, and vice versa. Hossein refuses to accept Rahim’s transformation into a famous saint. Questions of seemingly minor importance – why Rahim put his prison phone number on the poster announcing the lost bag, for example – are of vital importance. As “A Hero” navigates the tangled ties of family and business in Iran (Hossein is the brother-in-law of Ramin’s ex-wife; Ramin’s main support is his sister’s husband, played by Mohsen Tanabandeh ), the messy injustices of public life swelled like the traffic that envelops the film’s stunning finale, perhaps the most vivid and powerful of Farhadi’s endings.
In theaters January 7 and available January 21 on Amazon Prime Video.
What “A hero” • 3½ stars out of four • Duration 2:07 • Evaluation PG-13 for some thematic elements and language • Language In Persian with English subtitles
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