Starring: Amir Jadidi, Mohsen Tanabandeh, Sahar Goldstein, and Sarina Farhadi. (And if spell check didn’t just mess all that up, #winning.)
Directed By: Asghar Farhadi.
Where I Watched It: Amazon
English Audio Description Available?: Thank God, Yes.
The Plot: Raheem is a man currently on leave from a debtors prison that is trying to get his financial affairs in order when a purse full of gold crosses his path, and the decisions he makes could change his life forever. Should he use the money to pay off his debts, or is his honor more important as he looks to set an example for his son?
What Works: Everything/ I slept on this. I am still feeling things from this movie a day later, it just worked on so many levels. Asghar, who previously directed A Separation )another work that stayed with me) has given us this really terrific story of an obviously imperfect man and the decisions he makes. We don’t always make all the right decisions, and A Hero explores the ramifications of what happens when society rejects those who have made poor choices, but is so quick to offer a redemption arc if they can spin it into a feel good story.
For a film that should feel uniquely Iranian, it feels universal. Aside from the debtors prison, there are recurring themes here that translate into any culture, about right and wrong, honor, family, and often society and it’s hunger for a feel-good news story, and even how quickly we can turn on our hero of the moment.
How many times have you seen a feel good story on the news that lasts for just a blip in time? A Hero explores not just the act of doing the right thing, but how quickly people are to exploit the effort for their own image and personal gain. Raheem is a complex character, who is dropped into what should be a relatively simple life choice, but somehow it continues to devolve, showing how even a basic act of human decency can be twisted around and used against you, and often how society will always see a criminal as such.
Raheem’s hope for redemption he approaches tenuously, as he should, almost like he doesn’t quite believe that he is capable or worthy of forgiveness. But as it becomes clear to us, and Raheem that he might just find his way back to his son, life continues to poke holes in his character and his story, ultimately turning a good deed done on its head.
A Hero is truly a magnificent film, another directorial achievement from Iran’s Spielberg, and will keep you invested in this character and his ever evolving story. I don’t get to watch many foreign language titles anymore as I now need both the English dubbing (as I can’t read the subtitles) as well as the audio description. I got both, and while this is the only foreign language title I was able to view this year (because Netflix refuses to add English audio description to Hand Of God), it is also the best.
What Doesn’t Work: I slept on it because I couldn’t think of something I would have changed, or something that didn’t work for me. Everything worked. Maybe it didn’t work for some people, and that’s fine, but I hope people aren’t passing on this just because of where it came from.
The Blind Perspective: Having viewed a handful of titles that had English Audio Description while also needing dubbed dialogue, A Hero is done all by the singular female audio narrator. She does the whole movie, and I’m OK with that. At first, I wanted at least a male voice for male characters, because I thought it would make it somehow easier, but I’m not supposed to enjoy the film based on who is dubbing the voices. By keeping it all the same, it allowed for you to still be able to hear the tone and levels the actors were bringing, and not be distracted by someone attempting to act through their dub track. Squid Game, for example, went out and hired individual actors for each of the roles, so if I was judging the acting of those original South Korean actors, it would be shaded by how the actor doing the dub actually performed that same dialogue. It shouldn’t be that way, except perhaps with animation, where dubbing is 100% easier.
Final Thoughts: One of the best films of last year, a terrific film from a consistently terrific director, and I really appreciated the tale he had to tell. Foreign titles can be terrific, if everyone gives them a chance. A Hero is not just a great foreign title, but a truly great film about one man, and making a singular simple decision.
Final Grade: A