Sunday, September 18, 2011
Despite their shared theme of dealing with loss, "The Tree," is a very different movie than the hard to watch, impressionistic, "The Tree of Life." I found it much more heartfelt and accessible.
Eight-year-old Simone is enjoying a joy ride standing up in the back of her father's pick up when it goes off track and rolls into the sprawling, twisted tree shading their house. She finds her father dead inside the cab.
The family's world is turned up side down – not only by of the loss of their father, but also by the loss of their mother (Charlotte Gainsbourg) when she retreats into a deep depression. The oldest son tries to keep things together, but it is more than he can handle with his own grief and anger.
Unable to accept that her father is gone, Simone begins to hear her father's voice in the tree. To be near him, she climbs high into the branches. This frightens her mother out of her isolation. The girl sets up a bedroom cradled in the tree branches to spend more time with her father. At first her mother is worried, but then she does something startling – she listens to the tree and hears his voice too. She finds comfort in the idea that her husband is there. The next morning, the children discover their mother curled up in the roots of the tree.
The family experiences a rare moment of joy when funny yellow frogs emerge from the toilet drain. The roots of the tree have blocked the pipes and it is almost like their fun loving father is trying to say it's time to lighten things up, there is still joy in life. The little girl seems to have learned that lesson. When her friend asks her why she isn't sad anymore, she replies, “You have a choice to be happy or sad. I choose to be happy and I am happy.”
The root incident motivates the mother to finally go out into the world to find a plumber. She manages to get a job with the plumber (and possible new beau) George (Marton Csokas.) That night a huge branch breaks through the window into her room. Unfazed, she crawls into her bed with the fallen branch and wraps its limbs protectively around her.
When her plumber boyfriend comes to survey the damage, he is shocked by the degree of damage that she has been living with. “You didn't tell me it was so bad.” But he is even more shocked by her reply, “I don't think it was trying to hurt me.” It becomes evident that she is overwhelmed with adult responsibilities when she says, “I know I need to do something, but I don't know where to start.” She leaves it to her new boyfriend to handle. But when George arranges for a tree service to remove the tree, she sends the workers and George away. Her attachment to that tree threatens to destroy the very foundation of their home. Mom must grow up and find the strength within herself to protect her family.
"The Tree," is captivating in its beauty, compelling in its action sequences and poetic in its symbolism. It has a valuable theme on the importance of pulling together as a family to survive loss.