The Family Tree

Hallmark commercials feature families together at holiday gatherings, sharing wine, hanging ornaments, and playing with grandchildren – it makes you want to puke; no one’s family is a fairytale. As a tribute to the truth we all know, Vicky Jenson’s “The Family Tree” shows us a truthful, heart-warming short film about being part of a family.

Newly weds, Jake and Claire, have an overwhelming day ahead of them: Thanksgiving dinner and Claire’s family is coming. Everyone in the family has a different personality, and they all try to make it known. Peggy is overbearing and enjoys taking over the show, Denise is an overly cautious, super health nut and Jake is the rogue brother who ran away to and from culinary school in France. In the mix is poor Jake, despite his differences, just wants to be recognized as part of the family.

Jenson directs a beautifully orchestrated film with well-played dialog, metaphors, and lyrical scenes. One of the most high tension portions of the film follows dinner when all of the women in the house are gathered in a room, bickering over wine. Screenwriter Scott Ingalls shows that their love is apparent through the harsh words.

Metaphors play a large role in “Family Tree” from themes of abandoning childhood to the broader theme of the story. Derrick holds the power of the most important theme with his tale of the forest and the magic that occurs when he gets his feet wet. Jenson beautifully plays on Derrick’s creativity and love for food with a poetic scene in the kitchen between his sisters.

Not only is the cinematography and set design superior short film art, the cast is amazing. Jake is played by none other than Harland Williams, who is perfectly placed in the role of an outsider. Other cast members include Jackie Katzman with a beautiful face that should grace the screen more, Dave Jeffrey Clark, and Gretchen German, to name a few.

Jenson’s background as the animation director for “Shrek” (2001) and “Shark Tale” (2004) has enabled her to produce a live action film with the same fantasy wonder.


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