‘A Hero’ Review: Debts No Honest Man Can Pay

Farhadi’s latest film, ‘The Neighbor,’ casts a suspicious eye on a good Samaritan who has done nothing wrong. Rahim (Amir Jadidi), the film’s protagonist, is told by a secondary character around the movie’s three-quarter mark that “You’re either very brilliant or very simple.”

Rahim, a prisoner who has become a cause célèbre after trying to return a bag full of gold money to its owner while on weekend furlough from prison where he is serving a sentence for failing to pay a debt, is implied to be either gaming the system or a dullard waltzing through life.

‘A Hero’ Review: Debts No Honest Man Can Pay

‘A Hero’ Review

In all likelihood, Rahim is a regular man who is just trying to make it. Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s film is enjoyable because it lets viewers form their own opinions, and not just about the central character Rahim.

No one is required to be liked or disliked in A Hero. Everybody is behaving sensibly and rationally, if not necessarily honestly.

There’s a lie at the heart of “A Hero,” and the larger takeaway is that in this day and age of social media, of phones that record every communication, of the ever-present possibility of going viral, there aren’t many lies that can survive for long if someone is determined to unearth the truth.

In the opening scene, Rahim, on furlough from jail, heads to the Tomb of Xerxes to pay off his creditor and secure his release by meeting with his brother-in-law Hossein (Alireza Jahandideh).

Rahim Sets out to Track Down the True Owner of the Gold Coins

Rahim currently possesses 17 gold coins, which will cover approximately half of his obligation.

When Rahim’s creditor Bahram (Mohsen Tanabandeh) refuses to accept the half payment unless Hossein guarantees the remaining amount (a favour Hossein is hesitant to perform considering Rahim’s unemployment), Rahim sets out to track down the true owner of the gold coins. You see, he found them in a bag outside a bus stop, and they weren’t his.

But it simply isn’t the case. Instead of Rahim, the woman he plans to marry discovered the package. However, due to Iran’s conservative leaders’ mediaeval views on the nature of male-female interactions, he is forbidden from speaking publicly about her

. Since the woman who takes the bag and returns it to Rahim vanishes into the sands of the desert, he has no idea where the coins came from or departed. Whether or if they even existed.

Theories are Created as an Attempt to Explain The Unknown.

Bahram is convinced that Rahim fabricated the entire incident in an effort to regain his reputation.

Criticism on social media suggests the prison came up with the plan to divert attention from the institution’s appalling living conditions. Messages sent by Rahim’s friends show that his version of events did not unfold as he claimed.

Rahim’s credibility is called into question due to an elaborate hoax he and his girlfriend played on each other. Rahim’s public rebuke of Bahram’s comments via video only serves to further undermine the latter’s reputation.

There are discrepancies between what we saw and what Rahim says happened during their attempt to convert the gold into money. The web of falsehoods grows and grows until he can no longer escape.

In that both include dishonest people who rack up debts, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between A Hero and Parasite. Which forced me to question what I thought I knew about Rahim.

Can we take it as a given that his business partner ran off with the startup capital and he ran up the debt as a result? Could we possibly know where his girlfriend got that bag? All we have to rely on when trying to understand Rahim is his propensity to embellish the truth to his advantage.

Most Sympathetic Character

In fact, Bahram, Rahim’s father, is the most sympathetic character because he had to sell his daughter’s dowry and other assets to repay the loan shark from whom he borrowed money.

Bahram did it because his sister is (was?) married to Rahim, and the fact that their son Siavash (Saleh Karimaei) has trouble communicating and clearly requires the support of a stable family, combined with her complete absence from the film, makes one wonder what Rahim was like before he went to jail.

The film’s most sympathetic feeling is Bahram’s dissatisfaction with Rahim’s sudden fame and the implication that he should have his previous transgressions forgiven because he performed the bare minimum to be a decent guy.

And Farhadi should be commended for not making Bahram into a sarcastic villain; we might judge him harshly at first, but Bahram is the first to see through Rahim’s act.

Last Words

Farhadi has ingeniously constructed a film about the absolute tangible character of reality, despite the shifting perspectives and multiple narratives presented by Rahim and his allies, and despite the uncertainty caused by conspiracy theorists on social media.

The truth is unyielding; it cannot be negotiated. Many of Rahim’s issues stem from his desire to gloss over the facts in order to better serve himself, his lover, and his family.