The always enjoyable Charlotte Gainsbourg (yes, Antichrist included) stars as the matriarch of a family in recovery following the death of her husband in this rural Australian-set film from director Julie Bertuccelli (Since Otar Left). Dawn (Gainsbourg) isn’t dealing well with the unexpected death of her husband who left her with four young children and a ramshackle home in the outback. One day, eight-year-old Simone, the third in line, hears her father’s voice arise from the giant, sprawling tree outside of their home. It’s not long before her mother joins her in the tree, relating problems and sorrows as if the timber was her husband reincarnated. The tree’s roots stretch far beneath the home (and into its inhabitants hearts, as poetically inclined critics may say), which eventually leads to some interesting complications including a toilet full of frogs and an attack on the structure itself. A new man enters Dawn’s life, as do some nosy neighbors, but it’s the tree itself and the surprising effects it has on the family that form the film’s effective emotional core.
Director Bertuccelli imbues the film with a magical ambiguity reminiscent of Picnic at Hanging Rock, another heavily atmospheric Australian-set tale of youth and loss. There’s a strong sense of togetherness in the film in terms of both the family unit and the greater experience of life. Jellyfish, iguanas, and the tree itself are given ample time in the spotlight, often accompanied by natural sounds rather than a score. A linear, feel-good alternative for those who didn’t embrace that Tree movie from earlier this year.
The Tree opens today at the Ritz at the Bourse.