(out of 5)
Original title: L’Arbre Et Le Foret
A family is gathered at their French countryside home for a funeral of one of their members, and their aged patriarch (Guy Marchand) shocks them all by not attending. Later on, he announces that he has spent his retirement money on a trip to Antarctica with his wife, and has decided to leave his considerable estate, which includes their house and acres of forest, to his remaining children. Feeling it is time to shore up accounts, he also reveals the reason why he didn’t attend his own son’s funeral: his past is marked by his having been incarcerated by the Nazis during World War II for being a homosexual, and his son, with whom he never got along, was the only one who knew about it. Directors Oliver Ducastel and Jacques Martineau turn away from their usual lighthearted fare to serious dramatics in an effort to touch on a nasty spot in French history that isn’t discussed much—the government only acknowledged the French collaboration in deporting homosexuals during the war as recently as 2001—but their film lacks punch. The drama is tasteful, reserved and never quite reaches enough of a boil, reminiscent of recent fare like A Christmas Tale or Summer Hours but not as powerful. On the other hand, for a film with such political content it is not preachy or overripe either, and the performances are all excellent.
Screenplay by Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau
Cinematography by Matthieu Poirot-Delpech
Production Design by Dorian Maloine
Costume Design by Elisabeth Mehu
Film Editing by Mathilde Muyard