Iranian director Majid Majidi creates a powerful and somber parable about sight and blindness with his stunning The Willow Tree. The tale succinctly follows the events that befall a middle-aged university professor named Yussef (Parviz Parastui), blind since a childhood accident with fireworks.
Superficially, his condition is no hindrance. He is content with his lot: He's respected, pious, devoted to studies of Persian poet Rumi and loved by a precocious young daughter and a caring wife who serves as an essential partner in both life and work. Despite these comforts, though, a surge lies within Yussef that sincerely questions God's motives for the blindness. These existential musings manifest when he miraculously regains sight following an operation at a Parisian clinic. The newfound sense drives a markedly changed Yussef to regain a life robbed in youth; a sight without sight that leads to regrettably tragic transgressions against everything and everyone he holds dear. Majidi masterfully conveys the totality of Yussef's experiences. Introductory dialogue is presented atop pitch darkness and auditory subtleties are heightened. When Yussef's sight is restored, Majidi follows suit with exquisite imagery spotlighting the sublime and ultimately intoxicating beauty in everyday details -- the random patterns of raindrops on a car windshield, the kaleidoscope of nighttime city lights or the simple purity of snow. Parastui's evocative lead performance is the perfect counterweight to these poetic visuals, capturing the full scope of emotions that would accompany such drastic transitions with startling believability and sympathy. Grade: A