When it comes to directors everyone knows the big guns – Spielberg, Scorsese, Lucas, Bertuccelli…ok maybe not that last one, but director and writer of the new film The Tree, Julie Bertuccelli is proving that she’s a big gun too.
Adapted from the novel Our Father Who Art In The Tree by Judy Pascoe, The Tree tells the story of an average Aussie family living in the country whose world is turned upside down when their father suffers a heart attack and dies while driving his ute, crashing it into the family’s massive Moreton Bay Fig.
Dawn (Charlotte Gainsbourg) devastated by the sudden loss of her husband and barely able to stir from bed, is left alone to look after four children. Unaware her children are trying to cope with the loss of their father in their own way, 8 year old daughter Simone (Morgana Davies) shares a secret with her mother – their father has come back to protect them and is communicating with her through the tree.
As the bond between mother and daughter is strengthened through the shared secret, their bond is threatened when Dawn begins a relationship with George (Marton Csokas) the plumber called in to fix the tree’s troublesome roots.
As the tree’s roots continue to invade the family home, Dawn is forced to choose between holding onto a memory and moving on with her life by choosing to be happy, but her choice may have been left too late.
Bertuccelli is brilliant in capturing the pain and anguish of death, utilising the stark and isolated country landscape to magnify the extent of Dawn’s grief. Her use of the tree’s roots as a symbol for how death can be all consuming if we allow it, is outstanding.
Charlotte Gainsbourg and Marton Csokas are well suited to each other, with their onscreen relationship a natural and relaxed union. However, the stand out in this film is the younger cast members, in particular Morgana Davies as Simone, whose debut is nothing short of exceptional. Her natural ability to discover a depth of emotion usually reserved for the more experienced actor, with the attitude and spunk of a defiant 8 year old, proves she’s certainly one to keep an eye on.
Although at times slow moving as the narrative draws closer to the films inevitable ending, The Tree is a wonderfully, uplifting and hopeful story, that proves choosing to be happy can change your life, definitely an Aussie film worth supporting.
– Suzanna Parisi