Review: The Tree (2010)

27 Sep

The Tree is an adaptation of Judy Pascoe’s novel Our Father Who Art in the Tree. I can’t comment on the book or the success of the adaptation as I have not read it. What I did see in The Tree is a not particularly moving picture of a family’s grief. Perhaps something got lost in translation?

Peter and Dawn are raising their 4 children in rural Queensland. He’s a truck driver and she’s a stay at home mum. At the end of one of his truck driving trips, Peter has a heart attack and dies – not quite making it home – instead coming to his end at the base of the massive Morton Bay fig tree in the family’s yard. As the family grieves, Simone, Dawn and Peter’s only daughter, becomes convinced that her father is still with them – in the form of the tree.

The films main calling card is the presence of Charlotte Gainsbourg (of Antichrist fame) as the grieving widow and mother of four. Unfortunately Dawn is not as engrossing a character as I had hoped. I didn’t feel Dawn’s attachment to her home, her children – or anything really. Gainsbourg’s presence never really emerges and mostly the feeling is that she probably just doesn’t have that good a script to work with.

The child actors fare better – particularly Morgana Davies (Simone) as a frustrated and petulant 8 year old: I was sold on her prickly attitude. I mistakenly concentrated on Dawn as the lead – but should have paid more attention to Simone. Further praise should go to teen actor Christian Byers, as oldest son Tim, for a great turn as a young man becoming the family backbone with foresight and responsibility.

The cinematography prevails over the messy script and the direction provides enough to create a character out of the tree as it slowly encroaches on the family home. The tree takes on a life of its own – and does for the family what they need to do for themselves: move on – in the not so subtle metaphor of a storm bringing the tree crashing into the family home.

Crossing over too many times into shallow melodrama, the child actors, cinematography and the tree itself lifted the film only enough to be passably interesting. I hate to say it, but The Tree is unfortunately another seemingly ‘not quite there’ Australian drama – good talent goes to waste without a good enough script.

**1/2

– Morgan Leigh Stewart

The Tree opens on Thursday 30th of September

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3 Responses to “Review: The Tree (2010)”

  1. r-bong September 29, 2010 at 8:55 am #

    Ohh. I loved this. I found it really elegant, simple (but not simplistic), and pleasant.

  2. Alison September 30, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    Shame, I loved it too. Such a sensitive film and just magical. I really connected with it.

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