Under The Tree

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Under The Tree
"The tone is deliberately odd blending the naturalism of the day-to-day emotions of relationships and grief, with the altogether more heightened tensions of a revenge thriller, while still keeping a cheeky eye on the absurdity of a mooning garden gnome."

A petty neighbour disagreement quickly turns into a deep-rooted feud in Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson's eccentric Under The Tree. The sycamore of the title dwarfs the small garden of Inga (Edda Björgvinsdóttir) and Baldvin (Sigurður Sigurjónsson), casting unwelcome shade on the front porch of their neighbours Konrad (Þorsteinn Bachmann) and Eyborg (Selma Björnsdóttir). Inga and Baldvin are living under a much darker shadow of their own, following the disappearance of their eldest son Uggi, which has left their marriage strained and Inga pushed to the limit.

Things are going too well for their second son either. Atli (Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson) has just had a spectacular split from his wife Agnes (Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir) that has left him desperate to see their young daughter Asa.

In short, there isn't a lot of happiness rattling round in this film, although the director does ladle in a considerable amount of absurdist humour. The view of humanity depicted here by Sigurðsson, adapting a story by Huldar Breiðfjörð in their second collaboration after Paris Of The North, is a decidedly bleak one. The characters need little or no excuse to escalate their argument, permanently on the look out for a reason to take things to the next level, with compromise furthest from their minds.

The tone is deliberately odd blending the naturalism of the day-to-day emotions of relationships and grief, with the altogether more heightened tensions of a revenge thriller, while still keeping a cheeky eye on the absurdity of a mooning garden gnome. While this is certainly unsettling, some audiences might be put off by the shifting tone, especially when things take a darker turn.

Despite its outlandishness, the action also strays towards predictability in the final stages as the only way for the violence level to go is up. Nevertheless, strong performances, in particular a largely sympathetic turn from Rams star Sigurjónsson, and Björgvinsdóttir as the mother whose grief easily morphs into dangerous anger, keep the film anchored in the real world.

Reviewed on: 01 Sep 2017
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Under The Tree packshot
A spat between neighbours over a garden tree spirals out of control.

Director: Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson

Writer: Huldar Breiðfjörð, Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson

Starring: Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson, Edda Björgvinsdóttir, Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Þorsteinn Bachmann, Selma Björnsdóttir, Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir

Year: 2017

Runtime: 89 minutes

Country: Iceland

Festivals:

Venice 2017

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