DRAMA; 1hr 40min
STARRING: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Marton Csokas, Morgana Davies, Aden Young
Family tree: from left, Davies and Gainsbourg
The tree in this wafty drama is a Moreton Bay fig so colossal that the lives around it seem insignificant. After her father, Peter (Young), dies suddenly, leaving his family emotionally shipwrecked, the Moreton Bay takes on a new significance for eight-year-old Simone (Davies), who believes Peter is communicating with her through it. Her distraught mother, Dawn (Gainsbourg), goes along with this as her dilapidated Queenslander house slides deeper into disarray. Dawn and Peter lived in a cosy boho bubble with their four kids but now tree roots are threatening to topple the house. And when Dawn becomes involved with plumber George (Csokas), a rugged doppelgänger of the man she lost, Simone retreats into hostility.
Adapted from Julie Pascoe’s 2002 novel Our Father Who Art in the Tree, The Tree is directed with a restrained European sensibility by Julie Bertuccelli. While it’s a relief to be spared a teary hammering, and Davies is angrily magnetic, the overall impact is weakened from a lack of fleshing out. We’re not allowed to know these characters well enough to really feel for them, and lushly lit poetic symbolism is an insufficient substitute.