New Yorker Films // 2005 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dylan Charles (Retired) // June 16th, 2008
"Did you see the willow tree?"
Youssef (Parvis Parastui) has been blind for almost his entire life, but due to an operation, he can finally see again. Whether or not this is a good thing remains to be seen, however. His restored sight starts to seem more a curse than a blessing as his life is transformed. His wife Roya (Roya Taymourian), his friends, and his students all must deal with the new man he has become. In the end, so must he.
In a film about a man's eyes being opened to the world around him, it's hardly surprising that it's more about the images than the words. There's not much in the way of dialogue, as the character's words give way to the sights that almost overwhelm Youssef. Parastui's wonder at the world around him is palpable as he watches snow falling, a jeweler at work, sparks flying from the forge, and even more crude and ugly scenes, like a pickpocket at work on a train. His joy at seeing his daughter for the first time is contagious and Parastui's appropriately subtle touch gives The Willow Tree the emotional depth it needs without everything descending into a melodramatic mess.
There aren't many scenes to show the man Youssef was before he regained his sight. We get all we need to know from how his friends and family are reacting to him now. His wife's confusion and then understanding as she realizes he's now interested in his fetching young student rather than her says a lot about the roles they played before his operation. His dependence on her is gone and now he's seeking something beyond the steadfast loyalty Roya has offered him.
The Willow Tree takes its time getting from Point A to Point B, but it's the slow-moving pace that helps to give the movie a little something more. If it had run through the paces at a breakneck speed, it would have ruined the picture, reducing it to Lifetime's movie of the week. Majid Majidi's script was well-handled by the director. Which makes sense since the director was also Majid Majidi.
There were some technical problems with the disc. The colors seem awfully faded at times, though this could be how it was filmed rather than the transfer itself. I was also having trouble reading the subtitles, until I realized that I just needed to futz with my TV's brightness a bit. There's also not a single extra, so boo to that.
The Willow Tree is a beautiful little film. It takes a plot that could have become a syrupy mess (Blind man sees and sees the world is all sunshine and rainbows! The End.) and makes it into so much more. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Yorker Films
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Farsi)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated