A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Tree of Blood (El Árbol de la Sangre) is an English-subtitled Spanish language family saga that covers three generations of intertwined couples, with nods to the Russian mafia, cocaine use, organ transplants, car accidents, mercy killings, and lots of passionate sex. (Breasts are seen and, briefly, male frontal nudity.) A teenager falls in love with her much older uncle. A man has lived as a gigolo. A man kills himself by smashing into a wall. Blood is seen. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "ass," and "piss." A man has a cocaine problem. Adults drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes and cigars. Given the mature themes, large cast of characters, and hefty running time (two hours and ten minutes), only older teens will have the stamina and comprehension necessary for full appreciation.
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What's the story?
Two young lovers at the center of THE TREE OF BLOOD, Marc (Alvaro Cervantes) and Rebeca (Ursula Corbero), have arrived at his grandparents' summer home in Basque country to write the bizarre story of their intertwined families, in the hope of bringing them clarity. While the events go back as far as the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, they begin with Rebeca's mother, Maca (Najwa Nimri), a schizophrenic former rock star who spends years in a hospital after Rebeca's birth. The birth was so complicated that the infant required two major surgeries to save her. Rebeca is raised by Maca's lover, Victor (Daniel Grao), whose parents were sent as children to Russia (to avoid the war) and recruited as Spanish spies. While caring for Rebeca and tending to Maca, Victor develops a cocaine addiction. His brother, Olmo (Joaquin Furriel), saves the life of Nuria (Lucia Delgado), Marc's orphaned mother, when he kills the murderous Georgian mafioso out to kill her. Nuria grows up to be a book editor and Victor's brother, Olmo, later marries Amaia (Patricia Lopez Arnaiz), one of Nuria's authors. Later than that, Nuria and Amaia also get married and adopt an Asian little girl. During weddings and family gatherings, Rebeca and Marc meet and fall in love, but their writing project requires honesty and Rebeca reveals her ungovernable passion for her uncle Olmo, whose checkered past is revealed along with that of his brother, Victor, and their wealthy parents. Deaths, drug use, car accidents, organ transplants, and passionate sex all play a part. Does this information break the couple apart or make them stronger?
Is it any good?
The plot of this film is wildly absorbing but also chaotically complex, verging at times on the absurd. That it's fun to watch may be because it feels so much like a year's worth of soap opera episodes compressed into a relatively-economical 130 minutes. Over-dramatics? Check. Outlandish plot points? Check. Good-looking actors? Check. Passion, murder, drug use, sex? Check, check, check, and check. As new outrageous revelations arise, it can feel necessary, in the effort to keep everything straight, to review all the various relations. The biggest flaw, easily overlooked, is that the young lovers who move the plot along are The Tree of Blood's least interesting characters. Older teens may be the only kids with the patience to keep all the relations straight and the only ones for whom the material will be appropriate.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about secrets in families. Why do you think grownups keep secrets from children? Do you think some secrets might best never be revealed? What kind would fall into that category?
Do you think people who have done terrible things can be rehabilitated? Why or why not?
Politics plays a big role in what happened to the people in The Tree of Blood. A war sent small children for their protection to Russia, and there the children were trained to be spies. How do you think everyone's lives might have been different if not for that war? What political events today do you think may be affecting your life?
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