A HERO (2021), a new Amazon original movie which hails from Iran, tells the intriguing story of the complications one man endures as he tries to win his freedom and get released from prison.
Specifically, it speaks to today’s world of social media and instant hate and messaging and of how difficult it is to speak the truth and to be believed when lies on social media are spread at a rapid-fire pace. Add to this the distrust in modern day Iranian culture, and the result is a powerful yet frustrating story of a man struggling to gain his freedom in order to live his life.
A HERO opens with Rahim (Amir Jadidi) returning to his home after gaining a two-day leave from prison. He’s living with his sister and her family, and his young son. Rahim also has a girlfriend, who he plans to marry, but their relationship remains a secret because she doesn’t want her brother to know that she is dating a convict. She has found a bag full of gold, and she suggests Rahim use it to pay his creditor, his former father-in-law, which is the reason he is in prison in the first place, because he was unable to pay back his debt to his former relative.
When they learn the value of the gold is less than what he owes his father-in-law, Rahim decides to return the bag to its rightful owner, and he places an add seeking the owner. It’s answered by a woman who describes the bag correctly, and the bag is returned to her. This selfless act gains Rahim attention, and the next thing he knows there is a movement to raise the money he owes to his father-in-law to secure his release from prison. Even the prison officials support Rahim and help him gain positive publicity.
But his father-in-law is not so easily swayed, claiming that Rahim is very good at manipulating people and situations, and that he cannot be trusted. He doubts the story and believes Rahim made the whole thing up. Besides, he argues, why is doing what you’re supposed to do— returning someone else’s money— considered heroic?
Soon, more people doubt Rahim’s story, and he is pressured to find the woman who he gave the bag to so she can corroborate the story, but she has disappeared, and it seems she might not even have been the original owner but perhaps had swindled Rahim. Rahim begs his father-in-law to help him, and when the man instead insults Rahim’s son, Rahim loses it and attacks him, unaware that the entire attack is captured on video.
Rahim isn’t considered heroic anymore.
A HERO tells a fascinating story that held my interest from beginning to end. Rahim is shown to be largely a decent person who really just wants to earn his freedom. His past is shady, but everything he does in this story is pretty straightforward and honest, yet he can’t shake the doubts people have about him. His young son speaks with a severe stutter, and the boy is a perfect metaphor for Rahim’s plight in this movie. He is largely innocent, but he can’t get his message out fast enough. The powers that are working against him are faster, and the public opinion formed by social media and rumor are too powerful for him to combat.
At the end of the movie, one of the prison officials who largely had been helping Rahim says he wants to help him one more time, and he says if he films Rahim’s son, that the boy will gain sympathy, and more people will side with Rahim. Once he starts filming the boy, he encourages him to be over emotional to really win people’s hearts. When Rahim sees that his son is being exploited, he asks for the filming to stop, and when the official refuses, Rahim tries to force the issue. Everyone in the scene, including Rahim’s family, believes him to be acting crazy because they see the official as trying to help, but it’s clear to the audience that Rahim is thinking about more than just his freedom. He’s thinking about his son. Unfortunately, this is lost on everyone else, and he is viewed instead as a crazy person who is too unhinged to be trusted.
Amir Jadidi is in nearly every scene of this movie, and he does an exceptional job as Rahim. He is just quiet enough to give one pause to ask, is he sincere or isn’t he? But his actions are consistent, and they are the actions of a man who is genuinely trying not to con anyone but legitimately earn his freedom.
Writer/director Asghar Farhadi captures the flavor of the streets of Iran, and the plight of one man as he struggles to be free, a battle that becomes harder the more Rahim tries. It’s a compelling story that had me riveted throughout.
I haven’t seen a lot of Iranian movies, but I really liked A HERO.
Its tale of a man who tried to do the right thing, was hailed as a hero, until the tide of public opinion turned against him, is a modern-day story that has relevance in any country and isn’t just limited to the Middle East. People’s reliance on social media, and the strength that it wields, can be felt in any country.
Those who try to stand up against that tide are indeed heroic.