'A Hero' review: Trying to do the right thing, and paying the price

The latest from Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi tells the story of a man struggling to get out of the hole he digs for himself.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

A modern fable about doing the right thing, cutting corners on the truth and the perils of social media, "A Hero" details the ways in which no good deed goes unpunished, and how those punishments keep coming and coming.  

Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi, a two-time Academy Award winner (for "A Separation" and "The Salesman"), is a master of examining everyday situations and sussing out their moral implications and consequences. Here his focus is Rahim (Amir Jadidi), a working-class artist and divorced father who has been jailed for a debt and sees an opportunity to buy his way back into good standing.  

Saleh Karimai and Amir Jadidi in "A Hero."

Rahim's girlfriend, Farkhondeh (Sahar Goldoost), has come across a handbag full of gold coins, which will cover what he owes to Braham (Mohsen Tanabandeh). But while getting them appraised while on a two-day leave from prison, Rahim is suddenly bit by his conscience: shouldn't he instead return them to their rightful owner? He halts the sale and goes about finding the person to whom the bag — and the money — belongs. 

The right thing to do? Probably. And he's soon celebrated for his good deed and is featured on local TV. But everyone has their own agenda, and as he's taken advantage of by opportunists, others on the periphery question his story — what led to him being in possession of the coins in the first place? — and the already wobbly leg he's standing on is kicked out from underneath him. And that's before social media begins to collect its own toll off the situation.  

"A Hero" is a simple story of how quickly things can fall apart, especially for those who are already vulnerable or prone to losing. As Rahim, Jadidi is well-suited to the victim role, and even in his posture he carries himself like a man defeated. There are some holes in Farhadi's story — the origin of the bag and how Farkhondeh got a hold of it is a nagging loose thread — but the lesson remains the same: sometimes you just can't win. 

agraham@detroitnews.com    

@grahamorama

'A Hero'

GRADE: B

Rated PG-13: for some thematic elements and language

Running time: 127 minutes

On Amazon Prime Video