26 May 2022
Joel Morris, Hayley Thomas
After missing his father’s funeral, James (Joel Morris) meets with his younger sister Yasmin (Hayley Thomas) to sort through the belongings stored in their departed parent’s burger van. As they sift through the boxes memories come tumbling out that allow the siblings to reignite the dying embers of their relationship.
From the outset it is clear that James and Yasmin have a lot of trauma to unpack, both collective and individual. It starts with a melodramatic screaming match about how Yasmin really needs her brother and how James is, and always has been, the family screw-up, a characterisation he struggles to move past. After some oranges, sorry, satsumas, are splattered across a windshield the pair can begin to function both physically and emotionally. As they come together the chemistry between Joel Morris and Hayley Thomas becomes apparent. They believably convey the surfacing of a deep familial bond that had been long buried by the debris of everyday life.
When childhood treasures and obscure objects are discovered in the van James and Yasmin begin to open up to each other. Writer/director Oliver Blair creates a layer of artifice by having the characters wear the newly found wigs or smoke cigarettes from the hand of a broken Action Man doll. Sometimes they even role play through memories with their father. This allows the characters to become more genuine and look deeper inside themselves by contrasting their profundity with comedic or non-serious images.
Despite a script packed with more drama than the average soap, The Tree still manages to feel grounded, that is until one last big revelation. This plot point isn’t unforeseeable but the way it is rushed and bundled into the conclusion is a very strange choice. Without spoiling it, it is fair to say that it is maybe the most difficult and complex emotional challenge for the characters and it is barely even discussed. As this derails the narrative it means that the metaphor elaborated in the concluding statement comes across as trite and even cheesy.
The Tree is mostly a solid family drama with smart decision making behind the camera and emotive performances from the well-cast leads. Although, a confounding decision at the climax threatens to make this short feel almost tokenistic.