The Tree of Life (2008)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

"The Tree Of Life," Hava Volterra's new documentary about her journey to Italy to trace the roots of her Jewish ancestors is a personal family saga that illuminates the fascinating history of the Jews of Italy. The film follows the Israeli-born director, an engineer in Los Angeles, as she struggles to come to terms with her father's death by traveling to Italy, the land of his birth, to trace the roots of his family tree. Beginning in the ancient Adriatic city of Ancona, Volterra and her feisty 82-year-old Aunt Viviana travel extensively through Italy, digging up rare historical manuscripts, interviewing an array of quirky historians, and discovering the astonishing and humorous stories of their ancestors, including moneylenders and bankers in Florence of the Medici; a prominent Venetian rabbi and mystic involved in the Kabbalah; a mathematician who headed Italy's academy of sciences in the early 1900s; Italy's first Jewish prime minister, and finally, a prominent Italian-American politician whose name will be familiar to all New Yorkers. The film also includes the poignant reunion of Viviana with the Italian family who sheltered her and Ms. Volterra's father from the Nazis during WWII.
Documentary , Drama , Special Interest
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Critic Reviews for The Tree of Life

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (10)

It's a sympathetic notion, to be sure, but it leaves one feeling you're on the couch with Volterra, not on a roots quest.

Full Review… | October 24, 2008
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

[Volterra's] affinity for Italian stereotypes is countered with delightful truculence by the film's most engaging character, her down-to-earth octogenarian aunt Viviana.

Full Review… | October 23, 2008
L.A. Weekly
Top Critic

Ms. Volterra, acting as narrator and interviewee herself, can't seem to resist the urge to be the star of her own film, which too often feels like a wearisome exercise in self-therapy.

Full Review… | September 12, 2008
New York Times
Top Critic

It's clear why Volterra would have felt driven to make such a film. It's less clear why anyone not related to her would pay to see it.

Full Review… | September 9, 2008
Top Critic

Smacks of an audition exercise.

Full Review… | February 27, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Byler has a knack for elegant composition, as well as the hazy middle ground between friendship and friendship with a sexual asterisk.

February 19, 2008
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

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