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Parents' Guide to

Under the Tree

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Sex and violence in dark Icelandic dramedy.

Movie NR 2018 89 minutes
Under the Tree Poster Image

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Under the Tree manages to be both a dark satire of petty neighborhood squabbles and a dark drama exploring how one tragedy can ripple out to create more tragedies. At the root of the two stories is an adult son (never seen) who has gone missing and is presumed dead from suicide. His younger brother Atli has sunk into a torpor that culminates in him getting caught by his wife watching himself have sex with an ex-girlfriend during, presumably, a happier time in his life. His mother, Inga, chain-smokes and drinks wine all day, venting her repressed despair on her neighbor Konrad and his second and much younger wife Eybjorg. While Atli is kicked out of the house and trying to find a way to see his young daughter and perhaps even save his marriage, Inga and her husband Baldvin gets into an increasingly violent and bizarre war with the neighbors. Hilarity doesn't ensue so much as shocked surprise at the great lengths these characters go to channel their problems.

It's the kind of quiet, gray, understated suburbia-gone-wrong story that gives the proverbial art house theater a reason to exist. Furthermore, setting the movie in suburban Reykjavik adds the kind of "all is not well in Paradise" irony that was once the province of 1950s American suburbia. Which seems fitting for the second decade of the 21st century: While it's a foregone conclusion that America isn't the "happy place" it was once believed to be, it makes more sense to satirize the tensions lurking underneath suburban bliss in Scandinavia, where the happiest people on earth are supposed to be living these days. Overall, Under the Tree is an excellent, unforgettable movie with some unexpected and unimaginably dark twists.

Movie Details

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