The Olive Tree – Review

by Jamie Garwood

Iciar Bollain, the acclaimed director from Spain, returns with a poignant story about a determined young woman on a journey. With a screenplay written  by her partner Paul Laverty (Sweet Sixteen, The Wind that Shakes the Barley); El Olive (The Olive Tree) tells the story of tenacious Alma (Anna Castillo) who embarks on a journey from her home town near Valencia on the East Coast of Spain to Germany in order to retrieve an ancient olive tree precious to her ailing grandfather.

Encountering new acquaintances and with the help of two valuable friends, Alma learns a lot about herself and the virtue of honesty and the consequences that arise from with-holding the truth to those you love.

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Bollain shoots with a vibrancy to match her leading lady, Spain looks gorgeous in the sunshine throughout in contrast to the gloomier grey of Germany upon arrival where they discover the tree in the lobby of a big energy firm that has used the tree as their company logo.  Laverty writes this as a David v Goliath clash reminiscent of the work he has done with Ken Loach, and there is a hint of Bread and Roses (2000) here.

However, like many films, the story is not about the end result of the journey but how you got there and who with; Alma learns a lot more about her family especially her uncle Alcachofa (Javier Gutierrez) and finds love with selfless Rafa (Pep Ambros).

Bollain is lucky in that she has three capable actors at her disposal, the scenes involving the three in the cab of the truck they take to Germany are vital to the flow and spirit of the film (there is a great dialogue scene when the penny drops on the two men outside of the energy company and Alcachofa asks Rafa, ‘So this is our fault?’ a token line but delievered impeccably); there is no over-sentimental streak fighting to get out, there is a naturalness to proceedings that combines with the lightness.

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Other films may have used an overbearing soundtrack for a crucial phone call near the film’s end, instead Bollain rightly utilises the look in the eyes between Gutierrez and Castillo to speak volumes and garner the universal message.

A film that is fleeting in its message but nevertheless has universal themes that will steal your heart and stay with you long after you hear the last greenfinch.


The Olive Tree is released from Eureka Entertainment on Friday 17th March. 

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