Despite the fact that this film does tend to have a moral and expresses the same pretty heavy-handedly, I had quite a lot of fun with it. For one, the film has some truly beautiful and memorable images (a man running across the hillside in an ostrich costume, a helicopter shot of a man carrying a huge blue door on his back, hundreds of goldfish struggling to stay alive outside water and so on). Secondly, the film is really pretty great when it’s not focused on plot or moralizing. And thankfully, there’s a significant portion of the film where Majidi just lets the camera follow his characters around and doesn’t really try to move the narrative forward. This film is considerably more relaxed in terms of its pace and less plot-focused than Children of Heaven.
I really enjoyed the entire sequence in Tehran. It’s episodic and sorta doesn’t go anywhere but just the observation of daily life in the city and the various encounters that Karim has in the big city were pretty great to watch. Plus, it reminded me so much of Bombay. Here again, Majidi manages to get some pretty terrific performances out of the kids. They’re all totally natural and amazing and the entire sequence with Husain and his friends was even more moving and fun to watch than Karim’s story. The family stuff, especially in the last third, is great as well. And every scene featuring the ostriches is totally terrific.
My primary complaint about the film is not so much that it has a message but the utter lack of subtlety in the way that message is communicated. The countryside where Karim and his family live is all blue skies and green grass and so on whereas the city feels mostly grey and brown. The idea that materialistic pursuits only lead to unhappiness is communicated far too literarlly and the metaphor with the ostrich wandering off and coming back home at the end is just cringe-worthy.
While on the one hand I was happiest when the film wasn’t focused on the plot per se, there are several instances in the film where it seems like an event is going to have some kind of serious consequence to the story as a whole but that turns out not to be the case. I normally don’t have a problem with random digressions that merely flesh out the characters or the place but here I found myself distracted by these numerous plot strands that the film keeps picking up and letting go.
Despite these criticisms, the film made me smile a lot and turned out to be a pretty good time.