A Patch of Blue (1965)

Written & Directed by Guy Green

Life is a funny thing, I think everybody can agree on that much, so imagine life as a blind person. It’s difficult to do, just close your eyes and you lose all orientation with where you are, but what is more imagine that you never knew the color green or any other visual beauty. A hard concept to say the least. Now imagine a life where, despite not being able to see colors, the color of one’s skin mattered when it came to friendship. Guy Green, writing from the Elizabeth Kata novel of the same name, has melded these two concepts to make a fine film which comments on the simple pleasures of life, the beauty of a friendship, and the harsh reality of the prejudices of people.

Selina D’Arcey (Elizabeth Hartman) is a blind girl under the care of her mother, whom she addresses as Rose-Ann (Shelley Winters) and her grandfather (Wallace Ford). Blinded after an accident during an argument between her mother and father, after which the father left for good, Selina is relegated to caring for Rose-Ann and Ole Pa as opposed to the other way around. She is abused and not granted the freedoms she deserves, never having been to school even. But one day, while working on her beads in the park, Selina encounters a nice man named Gordon (Sidney Poitier) who has the heart to be her friend and teach her the simple things she needs to become more independent. But when Rose-Ann finds out about the friendship, and that he is a black man, Selina and Gordon’s relationship is tested.

Sidney Poitier is a fantastic actor and what shamefully little of him that I have seen has indicated to me that he is known for being the good-natured and kind black man amidst the social upheaval of the 60s, though I have not seen In the Heat of the Night or Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. As such he is perfectly suited in this role and his kindness towards Selina is the heart of the film. Opposite him is Elizabeth Hartman, an actress with which I am unfamiliar. However, Hartman delivers the best performance in the film. She is able to embody the innocence of a sweet young blind girl and the ignorance of her situation, which makes her not only empathetic, but attractive as a character. You can’t help but feel for her and hope everything works out for her.

But what made this film a pure joy to me was the attention to detail and how Gordon was able to enlighten Selina to the simple pleasures life has to offer, and vice versa. The sound was spectacular and I often don’t  comment on sound, but here it sticks out because we are dealing with a blind girl and the sense of hearing is heightened to the point that I think I could watch the film with my eyes closed and still be able to enjoy myself. It is the attention to these small details which makes the film so charming. How often do we take for granted the simplest things, like being able to stop the traffic to cross the street by pressing a button, or drinking a delicious pineapple juice, or hearing the sweet sound of a music box? How often do we take for granted the ability to be able to see how green the grass is?

But most importantly, how often do we take for granted the friendships we have made? A Patch of Blue is a great film for exploring these things and doing it well, but it becomes more because it makes a personal connection to me, and I should think many others, with the little things in each of our lives, and the personal friends in each of our lives. It made me think of the kindness of my friendships. But the stroke of genius here is connecting it to the social differences in the 60s. The side story with Rose-Ann and Ole Pa could have been handled better, but I think in the end it remains true that love and friendship are blind. I can see myself coming back to this film time and again and enjoying it every time.

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