My kingdom for a shoe

Turning to another side of Iranian life, I just watched a pleasant and rather well-made movie from over there, Children of Heaven. It’s about a young boy who loses his little sister’s shoes and their attempts to get them back or replace them, in the mean time keeping it a secret and getting by with just one pair between the two of them.

The idea seems to be that life is basically good, but there are issues, especially if you’re a kid with a problem you don’t want anyone to know about. The children’s father, for example, is an honest and well-intentioned man, but not particularly bright or adaptable. He’s chronically short of money, he feels the pressure, and he wouldn’t take it well if he found out about the shoes. Their mom has back problems and can’t do much. Other adults are basically benevolent, but they’ve got to keep things running, so if a kid seems out of line they try to make him straighten out. That can be a problem if you don’t always have shoes to wear.

The director got good performances out of the child and other actors, and there are some nice bits holding the pieces together: the boy has to do a lot of running, since he’s always behind schedule for lack of shoes, and that gives him a shot at winning a pair of sneakers as a prize in a race. He wins a pen for doing well in school, which he gives his sister to make up for losing her shoes, which she loses rushing to give the shoes to her brother after school, which the even poorer girl who innocently ended up with her shoes finds and returns so they become friends (lots of shy smiles, etc.). It’s a better-than-average movie about children, not extremely serious but not overly sentimental either. There are some bits about day-to-day Iranian life of interest to a foreigner: the home life of the poor but honest, neighborhood street life, serving tea to the congregation at the local mosque, and so on. It’s definitely worth a DVD rental.

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