It takes courage to do a tear-jerker today, but apparently Mary Agnes Donoghue has that kind of courage. Her ''Paradise'' is a weepie.
Donoghue wrote the scripts for ''Beaches'' and ''Deceived,'' but this is her first job as director, and she's done quite well. If you like tear-jerkers, this one has been very tastefully and artfully managed.
It has a French feel that comes naturally. ''Paradise'' is an American remake of the 1987 film ''Le Grand Chemin.''
The principal character is a 10-year-old boy whose mother is about to have another baby and wants to be free of complications because she already has enough. Her husband may have found someone else. He may or may not be back, so she asks her friends to care for her son for the summer.
The boy, played with remarkable understanding by Elijah Wood (''Avalon''), has no friends and tends to tell fibs. Those, however, are his only real faults. He otherwise is a nice kid.
The people with whom he is spending the summer are a couple who have been estranged since the death of their 3-year-old son.
The mother blames herself for the child's death and, as she says, ''is broken inside.'' Her husband, meanwhile, is patient but only to a point. Eventually, he gives up and moves out, something the boy witnesses with great concern.
By the time the boy returns home, however, his presence has somehow changed these people, brought them a kind of peace and reconciliation.
The road to reconciliation is what counts in this movie, and in this instance, the matter is intelligently resolved.
Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, husband and wife off screen, are the husband and wife whose marriage, after the death of their child, is in name only. Both do extremely well. Both handle the heavier end of this material without taking it to bathos.
''Paradise,'' filmed in South Carolina, opens at area theaters today. See it and have a good cry.
** A 10-year-old boy spends the summer with a couple who have lost their 3-year-old son.
CAST: Melanie Griffith, Don Johnson, Elijah Wood, Thora Birch, Eva Gordon.
DIRECTOR: Mary Agnes Donoghue.
RATING: PG-13 (sex, nudity)
) RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes