The Olive Tree (El Olivo)

Certificate 15

(2016) 100 mins

Director:   Icíar Bollaín
Writer: Paul Laverty
Cinematography: Sergi Gallardo
Art Direction: Laia Colet, Anja Fromm
Music: Pascal Gaigne


Alma (Anna Castillo, who deservedly won a best newcomer Goya for her role) is the youngest member of her family’s farming clan, spending her working hours looking after the barn-farmed chickens. When not at work, she likes to hang out, as she always has, with her grandfather (non-pro Manuel Cucala, adding an earthy authenticity). Once the sort of vibrant granddad everyone dreams of – showing her how to graft olive trees and encouraging her love of the ‘monster’ face in the family’s 2,000-year-old specimen – he has now been reduced to silence by Alzheimer’s.  Alma believes he is grieving for the ancient tree, which was sold by her dad (Miguel Angel Aladren) against his father’s wishes, with the spot now marked by a cairn of stones that her granddad adds to occasionally.  She decides to track down the tree. To her dismay, she discovers it is ‘in captivity’, gracing the foyer of a German energy company in Dusseldorf.  Hatching a threadbare plot to bring it home she invents a pretext to persuade her good-natured uncle Arti (Javier Gutiérrez, on fine comedy form) and doe-eyed colleague Rafa (Pep Ambròs) to make a road trip with her to fetch it, as she desperately attempts to whip up a social media campaign as they go.  Eye for Film

In Spanish with English subtitles



“What the film lacks in allegorical subtlety it makes up for in depth of emotion. The sight of the tree in such an alien environment is powerful but it’s the film’s smaller moments of solidarity that make the most impact, such as an almost imperceptible snatch of song or a sudden outburst of shared laughter over a sandwich. This is a charmingly hopeful film that has faith in the younger generation and in nature’s ability to find a route – and, indeed, root – to survival.”  Eye for Film

“For the most part, The Olive Tree is beguiling, mainly because of the emotive and utterly captivating performance of its star Castillo. At certain points, the narrative stem wavers, and the film doesn’t fully develop the fruits of its environmentally thematic suggestions, but, overall, this is an olive branch worth accepting.”  The Movie Waffler

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