Thursday, June 24, 2010
Sydney Film Festival: The Tree
A compelling metaphor for life and connection, The Tree is also a tender portrait of a family’s grief. When beloved father and husband Peter O’Neil (Aden Young) succumbs to a sudden heart attack the family’s idyllic country life is indelibly altered. Dawn (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her four children, Tim (Christian Byers), Lou (Tom Russell), Simone (Morgana Davies) and little Charlie (Gabriel Gotting) each come to terms with the loss in their own way, with Dawn retreating to her bed, Charlie to silence and Simone to the property’s magnificent Morton Bay Fig, where she believes she can still communicate with her dad.
This French-Australian co-production, which had the honour of closing the Cannes Film Festival this year, was struck by its own tragedy, with director Julie Bertuccelli’s husband dying during production. Such a profound loss no doubt augmented the emotional reality of the film, which is itself an adaptation of Judy Pascoe’s popular book Our Father Who Art in the Tree. The warm and compassionate final result is surely a tribute to Bertuccelli’s grace.
For those who have seen Antichrist, it’s impossible not to wonder if the chaos of nature reigns once more for Gainsbourg. Here she is again unafraid to bring an alienating edge to her portrayal of a mother so grief-stricken that she can’t help but neglect her children. It’s a fascinating performance, well supported by Marton Csokas as her new boss George, but Davies is the real find, stealing countless scenes with her effusive energy and quiet sorrow.