CANNES, France – A hopeful tale of a family rebuilding after tragedy will close this year's rather dour edition of the Cannes Film Festival on an optimistic note Sunday.
"The Tree" tells the story of a young girl convinced the spirit of her dead father lives on in a sprawling fig tree. Its gentle tone and life-affirming message contrast with the gloominess of many of the 19 movies competing in an official selection dominated this year by violent and depressing movies.
As the festival's closing film, "The Tree" is not in the running for the top prize, the Palme d'Or.
French director Julie Bertuccelli said she has always been obsessed with the idea of making a movie about a tree.
"I have really vivid memories from my childhood of being up in the trees, that way of seeing the world that's at once a bit removed and at the center of everything," Bertuccelli said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The movie stars French-British actress Charlotte Gainsbourg — daughter of the late French crooner Serge Gainsbourg — as Dawn, an overwhelmed widow and mother of four, and 8-year-old first-timer Morgana Davies as Simone, the grief-struck girl.
Her husband's sudden death sends Dawn into a tailspin, as she retreats into the bedroom, sleeping all day and leaving her children to fend for themselves. Simone seeks comfort in nature, spending time in the sprawling tree that overhangs the family house. Soon she is convinced she hears her father's voice in the tree's wind-rustled leaves.
When its massive root system starts tearing up the plumbing, Dawn decides to chop the tree down, but Simone is having none of it.
Set in Australia, "The Tree" celebrates the country's monumental landscapes and unique wildlife. Bertuccelli draws on her long experience as a documentary filmmaker, peppering the movie with picture-postcard shots of the sun-baked plains.
Bertuccelli's last movie, the critically acclaimed "Since Otar Left," was also set in a foreign country — Georgia. Shooting abroad is "much more complicated" than shooting at home, she said, but also a much richer experience.
"It's like travel, but also work, which is even more of a joy," she said. "You meet people, you form routines — it's like real life."