Not Rated. Running time: 1 hour 45 min.
Our content ratings (1-10); Violence 1; Language 2; Sex 8/Nudity 5.
Our star rating (1-5): 4.5
Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’
In A Patch of Blue Sidney Poitier’s Gordon Ralfe is a good stand-in for Christ in the way he helps the blind teenaged girl Selina D’Arcey, beautifully played by the young actress Elizabeth Hartman. Daughter of the prostitute Rose-Ann (Shelly Winters), she lives in anew York City apartment along with her alcoholic grandfather as well as her mother
Selina strings beads for a neighbor to add to the family income, the only kind of work available to her. After convincing her employer to bring her to a park to work, Selina is befriended by Gordon who is passing through the park.
A gentle man working the night shift in an office, he soon learns the stark details of her life—abused by her mother who blinded her at the age of five when she threw chemicals at her husband and hit the girl instead, and then years later was raped by one of the mother’s “boy friends.” Rose-Ann has kept the girl out of school, using her as a house slave. Thus she has not learned to read by braille or been taught much of anything to make her employable. The title of the film refers to what Selina can remember of the sky before she lost her sight. There follows a series of meetings in the park during which Gordon teaches her about the world around her.
In this story there is no cure for the girl, but Gordon does contact a school for the blind where Selina can learn how to live a full life on her own. However, Rose-Ann learns of the relationship, and the prejudiced woman is especially upset that Gordon is African American. She tries to break them up, even planning with a friend to leave Grandpa in the apartment and set up shop in a new one where they will turn Selina into a prostitute.
Gordon is faced with quite a task, one that becomes complicated even more because Selina has fallen in love with him. Being a realist, he knows that in 1965’s America such a romance would face too many obstacles—his own brother warns him about the relationship. Selina may be blind, but she can be persistent, though Gordon continues to reason with her. The film ends on a high note, albeit an ambiguous one concerning the future of the two—although I have read that this is more optimistic than the darker ending of the novel the film was based on, Elizabeth Kata’s novel Be Ready with Bells and Drums
The film made quite a statement against racism, coming out as it did during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. It did show in the South, but only after the scene in which the two stars kiss was cut out. Fortunately the DVD version includes this.