As if I were young again, as if little joys were hanging like ripe apples from the never-aging trees, as if I never saw the colours behind the rainbow, as if....This is one of the most touching movies about childhood and its long lost scent, a movie for the adult in you that never forgot about the child he once was. It is a reminder of the little dramas that go on in their little heads and the pain their little hearts gather in muteness. It is not about little prefabricated grown-ups dressed up as prodigy children, it is about how poverty and illness fail to corrupt their innocent ways.
Children of Heaven, directed by Majid Majidi, is about a little girl's lost shoes. Ali, her elder brother, takes the shoes to be mended and on his way back home, he stops at the market to buy some vegetables and the bag with the pink, worn-out, little shoes is taken by mistake by a man gathering empty cardboard. Ali returns home empty handed and a silent complicity is born between the two siblings, Ali and Zahra, meant to protect them against punishment and out of a mature understanding of their family's poverty. Still, Zahra cannot go to school wearing her slippers so Ali lends her his dirty, old sneakers provided she does her best to return from school as fast as she can so that they can swap shoes. The hardship of the family -the father works late hours, the mother is sick, the infant needs constant attention- are so evident in the eyes of the children that they would never do anything to either upset their parents or to cause them extra trouble. The possibility of winning the third prize in a crossing competition makes Ali hopeful about the way the shoe situation might change for the better. If he wins, he will get a pair of new trainers that he would give his little sister, thus putting an end to the situation. Ali is among the best in his classroom, yet due to the shoes inconvenient, he is always late for classes and is about to be sent back home as a punishment for his repeated misbehaviour. Zahra, on the other hand, accepts not to let anyone else on their secret and even as she sees her pink shoes at school, on the feet of another girl, she once again keeps her silence and puts on a brave face.
In a world where children have become addicted to various devices, giving up on their childhood in favor of the cold world of video and computer games, the gift of a ballpoint pen is a major event in the life of the two brothers. Ali receives it at school for having scored among the first five students in his class, and he lovingly gives it to Zahra in an attempt to sweeten the pain of the lost shoes. And there is such great bliss in the eyes of both of them for to both, happiness comes from the small things. However, the story gets complicated and for every tiny aspect of their poor life, there is a correspondent in the world of the rich where Ali and his father go to make some extra money from gardening. In the city world, rich men have a good heart and children mingle without any concern for social differences. If it is too idealistic, at least it is the kind of hopefulness that keeps you content about the outcome of things. Such people shall thrive on their goodness, despite the hardships of this magical-realistic drama, and the rest of us shall be left with the powerful image of a simple boy running the streets of his neighbourhood to school, never once complaining about life injustices.
The story is simple, yet touching, the movie has a strong structure, great dialogue and is well-shot. It might strike you as manipulative in the manner movies with child characters are, but the details of the cross-country race and the bitter-sweet ending have simply managed to capture the quintessence of childhood in a great picture, Children of Heaven.