SYNOPSIS: The O'Neills lived happily in their house in the Australian countryside. That was until one day fate struck blindly, taking the life of Peter, the father, leaving his grief-stricken wife Dawn alone with their four children. Among them, eight-year-old Simone denies this reality. She is persuaded that her father still lives in the giant fig tree growing near their house and speaks to her through its leaves. But the tree becomes more and more invasive and threatens the house. It must be felled. Of course, Simone won't allow...


You wonder why a 2010 French Australian film is only available to us in Singaporeon DVDnow.  While we see a film festival accreditation (the Julie Bertuccelli directed production closed the Cannes Film Festival in 2010 and received a seven minute standing ovation – woah!), do the DVDdistributors really think that local viewers are going to lap this up? While we don’t have the answers, we are quite glad to have watched this on home entertainment. As the saying goes, it’s better late than never.

Based on the debut novel Our Father Who Art in The Tree by Australian writer and performer Judy Pascoe, this 96 minute film follows the life of Dawn (the always wonderful Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her four children after the unexpected death of her husband Peter. Follow Dawn’s devastation as she is left alone with her grief and four children to raise. Things change as the tree her husband crashed into starts to play a role in the broken family’s life.

As you would expect, the film is chockfull of symbolisms, metaphors and imageries. Above all, it is a moving story and gives hope to those suffering from grief. While we know the real world isn’t as magical as we’d hope it would be, this visually attractive film brims with delightful realism.

A languidly poetic study of loss, the film makes heavy weather of its central metaphor, a huge tree dwarfing the family’s rickety home, into whose branches eight-year-old Simone is convinced her dad’s soul has transmigrated. Towering over most of the scenes in the film, this tree does appear to have a soul. There isn’t much wisdom or self righteous messages to be spread in the film, all that matters is the family being able to move on no matter how hard life is.

Expert at being angry, by grief, sex or just about anything else, Gainsbourg is as intense as ever. The children are perfectly cast as well: they behave as unpredictably - crabby one minute, full of odd insight the next - as real children behave.

Director Bertuccelli focuses on the family's moment by moment efforts to get past their grief, and she makes sure we know there will be setbacks. All of that could easily be sentimental and phony, but the assured filmmaker knows how to make family film of some sensitivity and intelligence. This is no Tree of Life (Terrence Malick’s love it or hate it film), but an intriguing view of what it may like living deep in the Aussie outback. 




The visual and audio transfer is fine, and you experience the sights and sounds from Down Under.



Review by John Li



Genre: Drama/Romance
Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Aden Young, Gillian Jones, Morgana Davies, Marton Csokas
Director: Julie Bertuccelli
Rating: NC-16 (Scene of Intimacy)
Year Made: 2010




Languages: English
Subtitles: English/Chinese
Aspect Ratio: 16x9 Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0
Running Time:  1 hr 36 mins
Region Code: 3
Distributor: Scorpio East Entertainment