We gave it an A
A sightless boy sees more of God’s green earth than his sighted father can in Majid Majidi’s majestic The Color of Paradise — another profound entry in the remarkable catalog of contemporary Iranian films that focus on children (The White Balloon) and landscape (Taste of Cherry) to express yearnings for innocence and faith. The term is over for Mohammad (Mohsen Ramezani), who attends a boarding school for blind children in Tehran. But his father (Hosein Mahjoob), a poor widower hoping to remarry, only reluctantly takes him home to the country for the summer; who wants a blind child in the dowry? At least there Mohammad has his two affectionate younger sisters, and his adored grandmother, a warm, holy old woman whose generous love for her grandson is as reliable as the sun and wind and flowers and birds so simply, reverently photographed by the painterly filmmaker.
Majidi contrasts Mohammad’s frustration and loneliness — never more powerful than when the boy can only hear what’s around him while we can see intensely colored natural beauty — with moments of rapture when the boy, with his sensitive, searching fingers, touches leaves, water, or his patient Granny’s familiar face. (Her mottled, callused hands, he tells her, feel white and soft.) His eyes may be useless (the untrained child actor really is blind), but Mohammad sees what’s important. And in a scene as wrenching as any more Westernized climax, the weeping boy cries out his anguish.
His father’s vision is limited, metaphorically, until tragedy washes his eyes clear. Majidi is empathetic to the older man’s own struggles; he’s also attuned to the movement of girls, aged countrywomen, and airborne seedpods, all part of a divine plan. A lot happens in The Color of Paradise, some of it shocking. Yet while never slow, the film feels quiet and spacious, like a prayer.