The Willow Tree
Finding Vision and Blindness

This film by Iranian Writer/Director Majid Majidi—the same director who gave us The Color of Paradise a few years ago and Children of Heaven in 1997—is a gem. It is a home run, or the cricket equivalent, and it goes in my top ten. I was humbled and absolutely taken in by this story.

All three of Majidi’s movies give us a deep and satisfying look at the inner life of humans. Regardless of which hemisphere we live on, or what political system or religious rubric we fall under, we all have the same inner need for meaning. We all also strive for what we think is best for our lives.

Parvis Parastui as Youssef in The Willow TreeIn The Willow Tree, Youssef is a devoted family man and successful professor of literature. He is also completely blind from a childhood mishap. His family is equally devoted to him and life has been good. Suddenly Youssef has an inexplicable illness which turns out to be a tumor just below one of his eyes. During the procedure to extract the cancer, doctors discover the possibility of restoring his sight through a corneal replacement.

Naturally, Youssef and friends and family agree to this hopeful prognosis and agree to the surgery. The impact of Youssef’s new eyesight is overwhelming to him.

Imagine seeing your wife of ten-plus years for the first time. Imagine seeing your child and students for the first time. How would you even know who was who? The scene when Youssef comes through the airline terminal and all of his students and friends and family are lined up cheering is moving in the extreme. I could not stop crying. No fancy photography neccessary. Yes there is some moving music, but just enough to serve as an augmentation.

The acting is so good and powerful words are also not necessary. Since this film is in Farsi and there are no lines to speak of at this point in the film, we are treated to one of the most profound scenes of emotive presence I have ever witnessed in a film. I bawled like a baby.

Youssef’s life from hereon out takes many unforeseen (pun intended) directions as he now must deal with a new life with new temptations and experiences. Those new experiences are what overtake Youssef’s life as he believes God owes him a chance to relive his life now that he can see.

The emotion and psychological changes that take place in Youssef are handled with extremely delicate yet powerful cinematography. The Willow Tree eloquently handles the challenges of learning life anew through a totally different experience. An experience of starting over.

The most profound part of the film is in how a blind man can become a seeing man—yet actually become more blind than ever before. Even though he now has a driver’s license.

This is a very perceptive and profound film. Mr. Majidi is a master storyteller.

The Willow Tree is unrated. Though there may be something nefarious in the untranslated Farsi of the prologue and credits, I suspect not—and so we are in PG-13 territory here. Not for any reason other than the profound emotion. But this is by far a universally acceptable film. It’s clean, thoughtful, and easily compares in quality to anything Hollywood could produce.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Mike attended a press screening of The Willow Tree.