A Hero

Reviewed by Ian Payne

Two Iranian films on successive Sundays, each giving us a glimpse into daily life in that most impenetrable of countries. Whereas There is No Evil highlighted the brutality of the State, Asghar Farhadi's A Hero showed us more of everyday people's attitudes and reactions to a set of circumstances that would not be out of place in the western world.

Rahim is on leave from a debtor's jail and hopes to convince Bahram, to whom he owes money, to accept a part payment, using some gold coins that were found by his fiancé. After failing both to sell the coins and satisfy Bahram that the balance would be paid, Rahim decides to try to find the person who lost the coins and return them to her.

When the governor of the prison finds out about Rahim's good deed, he sees the opportunity to promote his own work in rehabilitating prisoners. From that moment on, Rahim's fate is no longer in his own hands.

At first Rahim is lauded by the national press and TV, a charity awards him with framed certificate and collects money to help pay off his debt. He is promised a job with the city authority and the ultimate prize of a regular wage will help him pay off the balance. Dazzled by his new-found celebrity and prompted by the media's need for detail, Rahim embellishes his story to fit in with the prevailing narrative.

A malicious posting on social media unfairly casts doubt on the core truth of Rahim's story and then those embellishments and one outright, unfortunate lie are unpicked one by one, discrediting him entirely. The prison authorities who pushed Rahim into the spotlight now distance themselves from him.

Rahim's arc from zero to hero and back to villain; tried and found guilty by the court of social media is one with which we are all too familiar. Farhadi's treatment of the story shows that human nature, good and bad, is the same the world over.