When her loving husband (Young) dies suddenly, Dawn (Gainsbourg) is left with four lively kids and a big house in rural Australia. The property is dominated by a gigantic fast-growing fig tree, and 8-year-old daughter Simone (Davies) is convinced her father is inside it. Certainly the events that follow suggest as much, especially after Dawn gets a job with local plumber George (Csokas) and their mutual attraction begins to blossom. Meanwhile, eldest son Tim (Byers) is looking for work so he can move to the city.
Essentially, the tree becomes the central story's character as it reacts to everything that happens. And as it keeps growing, its roots threaten to destroy the house. Metaphors don't get much less subtle than this, so it's fortunate that writer-director Bertuccelli concentrates on the characters' personal interaction. And the cast members bring out the delicate balance beautifully, with Gainsbourg and Csokas giving especially understated performances that only hint at their inner feelings.
At its core, this is a film about grief and recovery, and the story is packed with solid explorations of these issues. The tree offers sometimes painfully obvious commentary, while Simone's relationship to it is played out in an overdramatic way that's perhaps appropriate for her age. But as it goes, we are forced along with the characters to think about how we cope with loss, when it's acceptable to move on and whether home and history resides in places and objects or in our own memories and relationships.
Bertuccelli explores these issues in a way that's far more restrained than everything else in the story, which includes an invasion of frogs in the toilet, a lost bat in the kitchen, an enormous jellyfish and a cranky neighbour (Hackforth-Jones), all offering figurative commentary on everything that's happening. Even the relationship between Dawn and George is a bit schematic, as is the way the tree constantly creaks and moans. But underneath all of this noise, the film has some meaningful things to say.
Run time: 100 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 11th August 2010
Box Office USA: $69.2k
Distributed by: Zeitgeist Films
Production compaines: Les Films du Poisson, Taylor Media, Screen Australia, Arte France Cinéma, WDR/Arte, ARD Degeto Film, Tatfilm Produktionsges. mbH, Canal+, Dorje Film, La Pacte, Memento Films International, Screen Queensland, Screen NSW, Coficup 2, Backup Films, Goalpost Pictures, Kojo Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Fresh: 48 Rotten: 18
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Julie Bertuccelli
Producer: Laetitia Gonzalez
Screenwriter: Julie Bertuccelli
Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg as Dawn O'Neil, Morgana Davies as Simone O'Neil, Marton Csokas as George Elrick, Christian Byers as Tim O'Neil, Tom Russell as Lou O'Neil, Gabriel Gotting as Charlie O'Neil, Aden Young as Peter O'Neil, Penne Hackforth-Jones as Mrs. Johnson, Gillian Jones as Vonnie, Murray Shoring as Council Inspector
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