The Children of Heaven is a sweet film about a boy, his sister and shoes. Ali is a 10 year old living in a small town in Iran. His family is poor and behind in rent payments; his mother ill. Ali sincerely tries to help out, but he ends up losing his little sister Zahra's shoes during an errand to have them repaired.
"How can I go to school without shoes?" Zahra pleads.
Ali and Zahra work out a plan to share his modest sneakers. Since her school hours end just as his begin, Zahra wears the worn gymies first. Though he's an excellent student, this "sneaker relay" causes Ali to be tardy. As for Zahra, ashamed of the oversized shoes her lamenting gaze falls on the footwear of all the other children in the playground.
I wept during this picture, but not from empathy; it was the stark beauty. Ali's family is poor, but not to be pitied. The father, loud and full of bombast, is nonetheless loving and dedicated. The beauty emanates from the eyes of the children. Majid Majidi (writer/director) puts into film that wonderful majestic world we used to see before puberty, when a pair of shoes and a shiny pen could make you come running home from school with a skip in your step and a smile that no news story could dampen. When your parents' approval or disapproval was paramount. When the love between brothers and sisters wasn't something to be contemplated, manipulated or even expressed -- it simply was.
It doesn't matter if you grew up in Cincinnati or Tehran, that childhood spirit proves universal.