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Film Fest 919 Day 3: Asghar Farhadi's 'A Hero' & Mike Mills' 'C'mon C'mon'

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Asghar Farhadi's 'A Hero' (Memento Films)

[L-R] Sarah Goldust as FARKHONDEH, Amir Jadidi as RAHIM in A HERO

This Iranian drama, now confirmed to be Iran's International Feature Candidate for the Oscars, follows one man as he tries to earn enough capital to avoid going back to prison. Rahim is in prison for a debt he cannot afford to repay. He receives two days furlough to try and scavenge up the funds. Rahim's girlfriend presents him with 17 gold coins she found inside a lost purse that he hopes to sell to pay off part of the debt with the promise to pay the rest back later. But when the money doesn't quite add up to the amount he needs, Rahim decides to try a different strategy in hopes that one good deed deserves another.

Rahim begins telling small "white lies," as the cost of discovery seems low. As time goes on, the community gets wind of Rahim's "good deeds" and the rumors of his kindness spread. This acts as a double-edged sword – his good reputation acts as a catalyst for gaining esteem and opening doors previously closed. But not everyone believes the hype and as half-truths amass, Rahim must decide if the cost of freedom is worth the stress of trying to prove he deserves to remain out of prison. The film takes us on an emotional rollercoaster ride as Rahim navigates the cultural landscape of Allah's will, benevolence, community esteem, and honor.

Truth be told, the picture felt long, and by the end, I, like the debt collectors, wanted a payout that I never received. This felt like the equivalent of a Safdie Brothers film, but without the bonkers factor. By the end, I wasn't sure what to feel. This film might represent reality, but it it's not something that made me feel anything other than disgust for humanity.

Iranian music, food, dancing, and mannerism are seamlessly woven into the narrative, which serves as one of the highlights of the film.

Final score: 3 out of 5

Mike Mills' C'mon C'mon (A24)

[L-R] Joaquin Phoenix as JOHNNY, Woody Norman as JESSE in C'MON C'MON

Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix), an emotionally stunted man who works as a documentary filmmaker, agrees to take care of his nephew Jesse (Woody Norman), while his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffmann) helps care for her estranged partner. Johnny lacks meaningful relationships in his life. He and his sister haven't spoken in a year, and Johnny's last romantic relationship ended badly. Johnny's job as a journalist allows his to interview kids about their outlook on the future. Without kids of his own, this task allows his to form temporary, intimate relationships with his subjects, who trust him with their inner thoughts.

Sister Viv needs to focus on her partner during a bad bout of his bipolar disorder, leaving Jesse in need of care. While Johnny isn't necessarily the ideal nanny, he is family. Jesse accompanies Johnny from state to state and learns the art of interviewing from his uncle. Their time together uncovers Johnny's emotional lack, but for the first time, he has someone he wants to show up for.

Stylistically, the film plays in the lyrical style of filmmakers like Terrance Malick and Luck Besson, with extended montages of beautifully composed vignettes of the characters. Interspersed within these montages like the scripted scenes that advance the narrative. The result is an emotionally evocative experience that encourages silent waves of sobbing. The chemistry between Phoenix and Norman is electric and sweet. The dialogue feels real. C'mon C'mon pulls out similar emotions from me as Alma Har'el's Honey Boy. The black-and-white cinematography will likely win attention come awards season.

C'mon C'mon shows two characters who need each other badly for a season. Both come out changed, and you get the feeling that they will both remember this as a favorite memory on their deathbeds.

Final score: 3.5 out of 5