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One of the main differences between a tale, a fable or even a metaphor, and a movie is that none of the former need to be believable and coherent for, at least, 90 minutes. Whereas all the narrations within the first category work because of their simplicity and effectiveness at making a point, the latter is part of another kind of storytelling; and therefore, different rules apply.
The Olive Tree works as a nice tale; something you can tell your children or young brothers and sisters; an idea you can toy with for a while and smile at its senseless romanticism. However, it’s remarkably difficult to apply the Suspension of disbelief for an hour and a half when you are following a young girl going to Germany to pick up a tree and bring it back to her grandfather who has remained mute ever since it was cut from his ancestor’s yard; regardless how ferociously lovely is the girl or how funnily sweet are her travel companions.
The Olive Tree follows Alma (Anna Castillo), her uncle Alcachofa (Javier Gutiérrez) and her friend, boyfriend in the making, Rafa (Pep Ambrós) as they embark on a crazy mission from Valencia to Dusseldorf to get back what became the beginning of the end of the family unit once it was taken away from them: grandpa’s millenary olive tree, now the symbol of a shady environmental German company. The mission is doomed from the beginning and right when miraculously some nice German activists have decided to join the Spaniards side and Alma jumps on the tree as she used to when she was a toothless kid, Alcachofa gets the fateful call the audience was kind of waiting for: grandpa’s passed away.
The three amigos make their way back to the Peninsula with sad faces but undefeated: for Alma is carrying a tiny branch of the olive tree which she will plant exactly where it belongs. As Alcachofa points out as they come back: “luckily we brought the truck, no?”
Alma plants the tree and as screenwriting canon requires, the reconciliation of the family pays off.
Now, as much as the actors deliver good performances (they really do an admiring job making the best out of their roles), as much as we would like to believe this beautiful movie, as much as I can’t help finding it difficult to criticize it (being from the same place, physical and spiritually, this bunch of characters are) and as much as we like Paul Laverty as a screenwriter, the truth is that this movie doesn’t quite work story wise. Just like Alma’s character (as lovely as stubborn), it doesn’t go further than a nice premise, a romantic tale or an interesting metaphor. To see Javier Gutiérrez perform is always a pleasure but, honestly, it’s quite difficult to watch a girl from Valencia going to Dusseldorf to pick up a tree and believe it; for 90 minutes.
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