After the sudden death of her father, 8 year old Simone shares a secret with her mother Dawn (Charlotte Gainsbourg). She's convinced her father speaks to her through the leaves of her favourite tree and he's come back to protect them. But the new bond between mother and daughter is threatened when Dawn starts a relationship with George, a local tradesman called in to remove the tree's troublesome roots. As the branches of the tree start to infiltrate the house, the family is forced to make an agonising decision. But have they left it too late?
The lasting impression of the film is that of Morgana Davies, who plays Simone superbly. She carries the whole film on her shoulders. The other actors and actresses are good but Morgana is in a league of her own. The film depicts an Australian family trying to build/rebuild their lives after the sudden death of the father. When Simone feels there is a connection between him and the old tree she fights to protect the tree although it is destroying the house little by little.
The film is very pleasant throughout but is possibly lacking a good ending, although that is arguable.
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Reviewed by: Alain
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Charlotte Gainsbourg is a woman who loves to play a woman in melancholy. She’s done it twice before via director Lars von Trier’s ‘Antichrist’ and yes, ‘Melancholia’. Now in ‘The Tree’, Gainsbourg is yet another woman who is an emotional wreck on the inside but tranquil on the outside. This time, Gainsbourg plays Dawn, a mother of four, who starts out in bliss with her husband and family, but then happiness isn’t exactly in the cards.
When Dawn’s husband dies of a heart attack while driving his truck with their daughter Simone, the truck deposits itself on the side of a Moreton Bay fig tree. Soon depression sets in within the family, but daughter Simone gets a supernatural feeling: she thinks the spirit of her father is within the imposing tree. It now becomes ‘part’ of the family somewhat, a source of strength and a way to cope. But when the tree becomes a menace to the house plumbing and the neighbors, drama ensues.
Directed by Julie Bertuccelli, ‘The Tree’ photographs an idyllic Queensland in Australia, placing an exotic touch to a very French production (lead actress and director are French). But the supernatural quality to it is really just an extension of familial melodrama, stretched for almost two hours of screen time. If this were a short story, ‘The Tree’ would be an interesting read, but as a movie the pacing is tedious and slow. It doesn’t help that actress Charlotte Gainsbourg is a soft-spoken actress known for somewhat depressing films, so any glimmer of excitement in ‘The Tree’ is already shut down at first glance.
The most amazing part of ‘The Tree’ is the fig tree itself. Its photogenic appearance makes it its own character in the film. But as much as it’s wonderful in size and it serves a tree-hugging response from the actors around it, it can’t be the star. A tree could do so much in the way of acting.
Nature and human nature intertwine and ‘The Tree’ highlights that. At least in that respect, the film is quite accurate. The film is indeed eco-friendly.