A Man of Integrity is a film that you might expect from acclaimed Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof: a heart-warming, gut-wrenching tale of injustice set in modern-day Iran. What sets it apart, though, is how Rasoulof succeeds, in a way that seems natural, in addressing the issues the country currently faces.
Reza (Reza Akhlaghirad) is an honest yet stubborn man who has moved to the Iranian countryside with his wife Hadis (Soodabeh Beyzaee) and son to avoid the injustice and corruption of the city. Unfortunately, the town Reza has chosen for his goldfish farm is controlled by a large, mysterious enterprise called “the Company” which wants his land for development.
In an attempt to protect his farmland, Reza gets into a squabble with Abbas, a punk hired by the Company. With the Company’s connections, Abbas manages to produce a false doctor’s certificate for a broken arm, leading to Reza being arrested.
Disasters continue to befall Reza due to him standing up to the system. Everybody else, including Hadis’s brother and the lawyer he meets when he goes to the city, repeatedly tells him to bribe his way out of the situation. Reza refuses, as he believes that he is still a man of integrity. Interlooped within the film, Reza goes to bathe in a cave and drink wine while searching for ways to fight against the injustice. In the final moments of the film, he battles it out with Abbas in an attempt to protect his family.
What makes A Man of Integrity stand out is how Rasoulof perfectly captures the dark side of human nature. Through Reza’s interactions with the corrupt officials in town, it is clear that injustice and prejudice are present everywhere and that, motivated by greed, human beings can do the most unthinkable things.
The bleak, grey visuals by talented cinematographer Ashkan Ashkani add grit to the storyline, making the struggles of Reza and his family seem more realistic. This is a noteworthy film that delves deep into the universal problems of corruption.