The Olive Tree

Spain and Germany submitted "El Olivo" (English captions) to the 2016 Seattle International Film Festival. I can't decide if it is a romance, a road movie, a family film or a travelogue, but whatever it is, I enjoyed every minute. It starts in a chicken hatchery, stops in Dusseldorf, Germany, before heading back to a massive olive grove in Spain. (Our central family raises chickens and sells olive oil.)

Director Icíar Bollaín has assembled a terrific cast to tell screenwriter Paul Laverty's story:
  • Anna Castillo - Alma has been Grandpa's little girl all her life. Through a clever montage, we see how close they are (she puts lipstick on him when she's about five) and she understands how important a 2000-year-old olive tree is to him.
  • Manuel Cucala is Alma's abuelo. They used to hang out by the tree as he told her about how old it is and how important it as a family heritage. Even though he adores his granddaughter, he hasn't spoken in 12 years, ever since his son sold it. He has that 1000-foot stare...
  • Javier Gutiérrez - Alcachofa is her uncle. He seems to be the family whipping boy and Alma isn't above picking on him with prank phone calls and tricking him into a trip to Germany. He can't stand lies or liars.
  • Pep Ambros - Handsome Rafa is a long-time friend who would like to be more to Alma. He is loyal and easily manipulated by her... not fooled, but manipulated...
  • Miguel Angel Aladren - Oldest son Luis has worked hard for his father all his life, so he felt justified when he sold that 2000-year-old tree to some Germans. He needed the money and didn't understand what it would do to the old man.
By the way, that tree is a significant character in this film. It is ancient, gnarled, majestic and absolutely worthy of all the attention it receives.

This outing has many humorous moments, a few exciting ones and lots of interesting observations by secondary characters. I very much enjoyed this unique film.