This gentle family story of an young woman’s love for her grandfather and his connection with the land that his family have farmed for generations is the third collaboration between an Edinburgh based couple, Madrid-born director Iciar Bollain and Scottish screenwriter (and regular Ken Loach collaborator) Paul Laverty.
Anna Castillo (Alma) along with her grandfather has a strong personal connection to an ancient olive tree that generations of her family have cared for, but when she was a child the olive tree was sold and removed from their land. Alma has watched her beloved grandfather failing in his health since the olive tree was sold 10 years ago, and now decides to embark on a quest to find the family olive tree and bring it back to their land to be re-united with her grandfather. This quest takes her on a journey of over 1,000 miles through Europe to Germany where the tree now resides at the headquarters of a rich and powerful energy company.
At one level, this story is a simple family quest for a lost heritage, but there are many other stories unfolding here as we look at how dealing with an loved but aged relative in failing mental and physical health impacts not only on a family, but one that traditionally cares for its old and in this case is being torn apart by the stress this care is placing upon them. Also interesting is how that family bond seems to have skipped a generation and is now between Alma and her grandfather.
We also have a glimpse into the economic chaos caused by the banking system’s near collapse in Spain, as once almost unquestioned access to loan funds for business and development being turned off almost overnight and the subsequent repossessions by the banks for outstanding loans left many in economic ruin. A glimpse too into a land where unquestioned funding for property development and local corruption at many levels in that area have left unfinished and unsaleable projects everywhere.
Interesting to is an insight into how some people in Spain view Germany and its unbalanced economic position within the EEC, as well as a glimpse of how the potential for new wealth fuelled by an unsustainable culture of bank borrowing against risky assets forever changed for some a way of life on the land and in many cases broke forever those old family connections with that land.
Spanish with English Sub Titles
19 June, 18:00 at Cineworld 8
21 June, 20:40 at Odeon 4
Review by Tom King