The Olive Tree (15)

Mar 13, 2019
Cranbrook Film Society

Writer Paul Laverty brings the same mix of social conscience and human comedy to this gloriously filmed Spanish film as he brought to ’The Angel’s Share’ and to “I, Daniel Blake’. This is a road trip, odd-couple romance and eco-fable set in the Baix Maestrat area of Spain’s Castellan. It is a simple story, told with charm and wit.

Icíar Bollaín | Spain/Germany | 2016 | 100 mins | 15

“It turns out there are many ways to uproot a tree. In The Olive Tree’, an earthy, quietly stirring Spanish fable finds familial, regional and environmental grievances inseparably tangled in its branches. This is the third collaboration between Madrid born Iciar Bollain and Scottish screenwriter Paul Laverty – the team behind 2010’s Oscar shortlisted ‘Even the Rain’ -and should prove their most appealing work, grafting gentle comedy, bristling social consciousness and a salty streak of family tragedy in its tale of a fiery young farmer determined to reclaim her grandfather’s beloved olive tree…” (Variety).

The film is set in Canet in Spain’s parched Castillon region. It looks at an olive producing family that had to move into commercial poultry to make ends meet. The effect this had on the head of the family Ramon (Manuel Cucala) prompts his granddaughter Alma (Anna Castillo) to do what she does. All will be revealed in the film, which is the story of a tender intuitive bond between a young woman and an old man, a commentary on poverty and a road movie that develops into a farce. It is a well-written film with a sly humour, a good mix of human comedy and social conscience.

Writer Paul Laverty collaborated with Ken Loach in ‘ The Angel’s Share’, which our society viewed a decade ago, ‘Looking for Eric’, ‘Jimmy’s Hall’, and ‘I, Daniel Blake’. There is a commonality between all these films in that the main characters are warm and likeable; all pitched against two-dimensional villainous stereotypes – here thin, humourless Germans. The Olive Tree is more cinematic, less muted, full of overhead shots of beautiful harsh landscapes. Cinematographer Sergi Gallardo leaves us sun drenched and warm. Pascal Gaigne composed a soundtrack of lilting melancholy, worthy of one of Spain’ most respected composers. The Director, Bollain, plays with symbolism throughout the piece, ironically setting Ramon’s tree as the logo for an energy company, using a plastic Statue of Liberty as a visual gag, and the noise from the vile poultry farm as a metaphor for the family disputes around the dining table.

The cast is a good mix of seasoned actors and locals. The locals provide the careworn hands and sun wrinkled faces. Alma is tough yet vulnerable and is complemented superbly by her Uncle Arti (Javier Gutierrez). Probably his best line about his niece was “Who does she think she is, Mahatma Ghandi?”

This is a diverting film, a breath of fresh air after the intense and unforgiving ‘I, Daniel Blake’ that we screened last season.



            Weighted vote 93.46%