The “be careful what you wish for” maxim is easily applicable to all timeworn conventions. What redeems The Willow Tree from collapsing into complete melodrama is director Majid Majidi’s preternatural ability to capture the world’s ethereal dimensions. This film’s cautionary tale may look bathetic—but just as its protagonist discovers, looks are deceiving.
Majidi first used blindness as a premise in The Color of Paradise (1999), featuring a sightless boy with a father embarrassed by his son’s lack of vision. This time around, the blind character is Youssef (Parastui), a middle-aged professor who could see when he was a child. Happily married with a daughter, Youssef still harbors resentment toward God for taking his vision—until a medical procedure in Paris restores his sight. And that’s when the trouble begins.
The Willow Tree works as a metaphor for how different cultures give people a keener view of their own lives, or as a warning to those who invest all their hopes into one myopic dream, or even as a test of religious devotion. The film has its flaws (Majidi, a winner of the 2001 Hamburg Film Festival’s Douglas Sirk Award, tends toward the maudlin), but his gift for giving a cinematic texture to the emotional senses validates his work as a visionary.