Australia has come out swinging for the second straight year with interesting films.
This low-key story starts with a woman trying to come to grips with her husband’s death, while raising four children that are also struggling without him. The 8-year-old seems convinced her fathers spirit has somehow merged with the huge fig tree that shadows their house.
The girl is played by newcomer Morgana Davis and she’s great.
Her mom is played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, a popular French singer/actress (she won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for Antichrist a few years ago). And her last album was produced by Beck.
The tree was perfectly cast, too. The performance was a bit wooden at times (okay, that was easy)…but in all seriousness – the writer/director found the perfect tree down under, and the filmmakers built the house around it.
I’ve gotten into many arguments with women over the years that think certain movies are more romantic than they actually are. That list would include The Notebook, An Officer and a Gentleman, and Gone With the Wind.
There’s an opening scene in this movie with the couple snuggling in a hammock that is more romantic than anything from that list of films.
When the mother starts working and slowly seems to come out of her depression, I love the fact that her male boss is a realistic character. He’s sympathetic, friendly, and when the little girl doesn’t take kindly to him – he doesn’t become the antagonist. In fact, there are times you can see yourself calling the girl a brat, and he seems very patient.
The way the grief is dealt with in this is rather refreshing.
You don’t have to be a tree-hugger to fall for this endearing little film. There are some beautiful long shots of the sometimes harsh Queensland landscape, and nature lovers are going to relish those.
It seems I most often mention great cinematography when the shots involve nature, and there are many fine visuals in this.
Although I was never bored watching it, there could’ve easily been 15 to 20 minutes trimmed from it.
There are also times we see the branches around the house, and it gets your mind going the opposite way about how you felt about the tree; but there comes a point when you end up wishing they would have taken it down a notch on the metaphors. A more subtle approach would’ve worked better and the movie starts to lose its way in the third act.
That being said, it’s still my favorite “tree” movie of the year (the critics would pick the overrated Tree of Life).