The Tree

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Charlotte Gainsbourg in The Tree
Rural Queensland, and after her husband has a fatal coronary in his truck right in front of the house, widow Dawn (Charlotte Gainsbourg) must cope with her loss and raise three kids on her own. The title of the film’s source novel, Judy Pascoe’s ‘Our Father who Art in the Tree’, drops a whopping hint about subsequent developments, as eight-year-old Simone (Morgana Davies) starts her own solo conversations with the massive Moreton Bay fig tree which looms over the family home, before mum finds solace in the branches too. Mourning hits Dawn hard, but as she begins to warm to local plumber George (Marton Csokas), Simone grows resentful…

Julie Bertuccelli’s follow-up to the Georgia-set charmer ‘Since Otar Left’ is another tribute to the French director’s wandering spirit, though there’s some clunky dialogue to explain how Gainsbourg ended up in the wilds of Oz. Toning down the grief from ‘Antichrist’ levels of excess, her utterly believable performance grounds a drama which otherwise threatens to turn amorphously metaphysical, her deep hurt the film’s abiding reality.

That said, Davies is the standout, projecting innocence and determination without the usual child-actor precocity, and keeping the story alert when its trajectory of regeneration and renewal starts to look telegraphed. The piece is engrossing in its everyday details of domestic discord and tribulation – not least because the eponymous tree makes a canny character in its own right. Ultimately then, while the central metaphor’s a bit too obvious, we like the people enough to go with it. Unusual and endearing.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday August 5 2011
Duration: 100 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Julie Bertucelli
Screenwriter: Julie Bertucelli
Cast: Marton Csokas
Morgana Davies
Charlotte Gainsbourg

Average User Rating

2.5 / 5

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