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FNC 2010: L’Arbre


Directed by Julie Bertucelli

Strong characterizations can’t quite save Julie Bertucelli’s new effort, L’Arbre. After the death of her husband, Charlotte Gainsbourg struggles to readjust, while her daughter believes that her father’s spirit continues to live on in the ancient tree that grows right outside of their home.

Most of the film’s failings lie in its rushed filmmaking, which fails to capture the infinity of  a begrieved moment. It is quite obvious that each second feels like a year to Gainsbourg, who is completely lost without her husband: her performance indicates as much, but time passes far too quickly for the audience to be able to really dwell on her suffering, or for that matter, that of her children. Time only seems to rush by in this film, and we jump days, weeks and months, and the cuts seem too frequent, when all the audience yearns for is a moment of patience and care.

The spiritual possibility in a film like this is infinite, but little opportunity is taken to explore this realm in an illuminating way. The idea that the father’s soul continues to live through the tree brings as much pain as it does salvation, but is ultimately as underdeveloped as the rest of the narrative.

Though there is little in this film that can be called substandard outright, there is equally no particular element that stands out as being worthwhile. It is a fine showcase for some great performances, in fact most of the cast is uniform interest, but the script doesn’t allow for much room to excel, either.

– Justine Smith

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