Release Date: August 3rd, 2007 (Lincoln Plaza Cinemas) by New Yorker Films.
The Cast: Parvis Parastui, Roya Taymourian, Afarin Obeisi, Mohammad Amir Naji, Melika Eslafi, Leila Otadi, Mahmoud Behraznia, Fouad Nahas, Ahmad Gawaheri.
Directed by Majid Majidi.
In Persian with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: Youssef (Parastui) experiences a mid-life crisis when he regains his eyesight after a successful operation.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: The Willow Tree a simple, slow-moving plot that manages to be both compelling and absorbing thanks to a strong performance by Parvis Parastui along with rich character development. Youssef, a university professor who has been blind since childhood, travels to Paris where he undergoes an operation to restore his eyesight. Once it becomes restored, he suddenly no longer wants to live the same life he has lived with his wife (Taymourian) in Iran. The mental breakdown that he gores through is very much like a mid-life crisis but without him having a mistress. His mother (Obeisi) tries unsuccessfully to get her beloved son to return back to normal. Co-writer/director Majid Majidi includes enough character development so that you’re drawn into the life of Youssef. Even though he seems to be quite stubborn, Youssef still comes across as a likable, complex and believable character—unlike Val Kilmer’s character in the somewhat similar Hollywood movie from 1998, At First Sight. Majidi fills some scenes with picturesque, lyrical and even haunting beauty. It’s amazing how small moments can be so powerful. Fortunately, the plot doesn’t have a single contrivances or over-the-top scenes. Just watching the talented actor Parvis Parastui thoroughly immerse himself in the role of Yousef will keep you engaged from start to finish.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Many thought-provoking, poignant scenes come to mind, but one that stands out among all of them is when Youssef observes a small ant burdened by carrying a large crumb. This use of symbolism means so much in terms of what Youssef goes through, although his burden is much more emotional. Youssef seems like a young child who’s discovering the world as if for the very first time. In turn, Youssef must rediscover himself, which is much more easily said than done.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: Thoroughly absorbing, compelling and poignant. A small gem filled with haunting moments of lyrical beauty.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater
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