Have you ever thanked God for watching a movie? For the first time in my life I did. My heart, unconsciously, thanked
The movie begins to a close-up take of a cobbler mending a tattered pair of sneakers. As the experienced hands work on the pink coloured sneakers, the titles appear. Though I didn't have a single idea about the film, I was highly impressed from this very first shot, which creates a mesmeric effect and sets the tone for the whole film.
Then, we see Ali, a desolate looking boy, paying the cobbler and heading to market place to fulfill the chores entrusted by his sick mother. In a vegetable stand, unknowingly, a blind peddler swipes away the sneakers, the only pair his sister Zahara has got for wearing to school. Desperately Ali searches in vain. Knowing that this loss would burden their parents, who are eking out a meager living, Ali asks Zahara to conceal it from them. He concocts a plan and decides to share his canvas shoes, promising his sister to find a solution as soon as possible. Zahara wears the canvas shoes to school in the morning. When the school gets over, she comes back running to a deserted street corner, where Ali eagerly waits. They exchange their shoes, and then Ali hastens to his school, which begins late afternoon. The going (running?!) gets worse… until Ali seizes an opportunity to participate in a marathon race, where by coming third he can win a brand new pair of sneakers and gift it to his sister, who bore the brunt of the loss(from his point of view). Will he win and gift Zahara? For that you have to watch the film, and see how on this seemingly simple premise Iranian Filmmaker Majid Majidi crafts a wonderful, heart warming film about a family in Tehran, though trodden by poverty is richly gifted with moral values, familial love and most of all two innocent, selfless angels, Ali and Zahara.
What I loved and inspired me was the way the children shoulder the burden for their parents. Ali understands the gravity of the loss and takes complete responsibility for it. He gives his valuable belongings to console his worrying sister. And (literally) runs for her throughout the film. On the other side, we see Zahara's hearty smile turning into tears as she discovers about the sneakers. But without making any fuss she seeks for a solution. Though reluctant about the shoe-swapping plan, she sincerely follows it, and endures all the hardships for his brother without disclosing the truth to their parents. Yeah... she gets frustrated and blames Ali often, but the realization of her family's financial situation and brother's loving gifts makes her smile even amidst the predicament.
Their exemplary performance will tug at your heartstrings. Their emotions are sincere. Their smiles are angelic. Their plight is genuine. Their determination is remarkable. In all, they are children of heaven.
Ali's father is hard working but unskilled. He is so truthful and honest that he doesn't even take a teaspoon sugar from the sugar cubes, entrusted by the Mosque, spread in front of him, while the tea is served (one of the brilliant scenes in the film). Here, he unconsciously sets an example for his children.
Majid Majidi has the knack of creating a masterpiece from the most trivial things (at least we think so!) of life. He has achieved something what all the mega-budget, technically flaunting, big name movies mostly fail to do. He moves your heart. Leaves you with characters etched in your memory. And very subtly (read powerfully) asserts LESS IS MORE!
The film has no special effects, no mind-boggling sets, no exotic locations, no skimpy dressed women, no gun trotting villains and fiercely chasing heroes (add to them all the must-haves of our stereotype movies) and yet keeps you hooked for an hour and half. Majid Majidi captures the otherwise mundane life with such a beauty, innocence and warmth. The scenes where Ali and Zahara, without their parent’s knowledge, secretly pass notes to one other, and blow bubbles from soap foams, while washing the dirty canvas, will simply fill your heart with joy and will leave you speechless.
The director brings you to the edge of the seat when Zahara’s shoe slips and falls into an open gutter. He shows the rich-poor division when Ali and his father set out for gardening job in the city. Top of it all, he blows away your mind in the suspenseful, breathtaking and remarkable marathon race – the grand finale!
It is one of those rare films that transcend barriers and strike an emotional chord in your heart. Though the film is set in
The editing and camera work perfectly in favour of the story. The only complain I have about the movie is the background score, which is good but not excellent. The film’s ending is also as poetic as the beginning – Ali dips his sore, worn-out feet in a pond, and beautiful golden fishes come to caress those tiny selfless feet.
Still, if you're not convinced with me or have not yet seen the film, watch it, then you'll really know why my heart thanked God!