As more contemporary Iranian cinema finds distribution abroad, certain signifiers—or, in some cases, clichés—have begun to emerge from the movement, including an emphasis on simple, emotionally direct storylines, naturalistic photography, and a preoccupation with children's issues. Majid Majidi's The Color Of Paradise is poured directly into this template, so much so that its basic premise—the adventures of an 8-year-old blind boy with an acute sense of hearing—is identical to countryman Mohsen Makhmalbaf's recent The Silence. But the differences between the two, however subtle, are crucial. Rather than indulge in the mawkish trappings of other films about afflicted children, Makhmalbaf uses delicate effects to suggest that his hero's blindness is actually a heightened, uniquely sensual mode of perception. Majidi, whose instincts are far more populist and conventional, can't resist the sentimental tug of crocodile tears, swelling music cues, and overwrought visual poetry. But he does coax an impressively authentic and touching performance from young Mohsen Ramezani, a natural performer who legitimizes emotions that would otherwise seem bathetic. That's no small feat, considering that a typical scene asks him to rescue an adorable baby bird from the forest floor and return it safely to its mother's nest. As the film opens, the perpetually tearful Ramezani is the last student picked up at a Teheran institute for the blind, another reminder of widowed father Hossein Mahjoub's bitterness and shame. Summer vacation takes them to the idyllic family farm, where Ramezani is embraced by his two ebullient sisters and his beloved grandmother (Salime Feizi). But as it progresses, The Color Of Paradise narrows its focus on the tenuous father-son relationship and, in one wrenching epiphany, wonders if it can be redeemed. Majidi's passionate and accessible style brings him closer to Italian neo-realism than his more austere Iranian contemporaries, which may account for the relative box-office success of his last film, Children Of Heaven. But divorced from any social context or larger meaning, The Color Of Paradise can only gleam from a heavy coat of sticky sentiment.