0239 GMT October 20, 2021
The Iranian film, ‘A Hero,’ directed by Asghar Farhadi, which was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), has one of the best screenplays of the year, wrote rogerebert.com.
The TIFF is well-known for being a layover location for major films that premiered at European fests earlier in the year. For those of us who don’t get to go to Cannes, Berlin, or Venice, it’s wonderful to use TIFF to catch up with some of the most acclaimed films of the year before they are released in theaters. Such was the case this year with several high-profile dramas, including a three-hour award winner from Cannes and the latest from one of the best living filmmakers.
Let’s start there as the incredible Asghar Farhadi (‘A Separation’) proves why he’s such a beloved artist with ‘A Hero,’ one of his best films, which is really saying something. Farhadi delivers yet another deeply empathetic and heartbreaking drama that focuses on character while also embedding some interesting commentary about the complexity of heroism. Farhadi is one of the most talented auteurs when it comes to unpacking situations in which there are no easy answers; black & white are more likely to blend to gray. His films defy easy moral judgments of their characters, keeping viewers engaged in nothing less than the complexity of the human condition. In what is easily one of the best screenplays of the year, Farhadi unfolds a saga that feels increasingly like it’s trying to defy its title: There are no heroes in the real world, only people trying to do what they think is best.
Rahim (the riveting Amir Jadidi) is a calligrapher who has been in debtor’s prison over a loan gone very wrong. He is forced to live in this medium-security facility while he tries to figure out how to repay his debt. On one two-day leave from the penitentiary, Rahim’s friend (Sahar Goldoost) finds a purse at a bus stop. After learning that the contents of the purse won’t cover his financial liability, Rahim decides to track down the owner of the purse and return it. Is this act heroic? Or does he realize that the public outpouring of goodwill could prove more valuable than the coins? And what of the man whose life has been ruined by the debt incurred by Rahim? As he watches someone that he loathes become lionized and turned into a hero, his skin crawls. The systems around Rahim, including his jailer and the charity that supported him, start to collapse with some of the craftiest writing of the year.
Every choice that Farhadi makes resonates, and yet his films also feel incredibly genuine at the same time. They’re not overly precious or scripted, feeling as if they emerge from the characters and their lives. It’s really only when the emotional journey is over that one looks back and admires its construction and craft. Is Farhadi commenting on the impossibility of perfect heroism? Or how systems are designed to destroy them? There are also clear cultural undercurrents here about the broken dynamic of debtor’s prisons in the first place. It’s a blazingly smart movie, one of the best of the year.
*Brian Tallerico is the editor of rogerebert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone, and the president of the Chicago Film Critics Association.