There is an inherent beauty to mysticism and faith—the aura of believing in something that cannot be simply explained by science or logic is almost non-existent in an era of film drained of color and pumped with cynicism; however, Ante Novakovic’s “Leaves of the Tree” brings a heartwarming touch to belief and family that is the perfect escape from the end-of-the-world fare that occupies both the big and small screen.
Eric Roberts plays Patrick Messina, a patent lawyer at a Houston firm that must go to Sicily, Italy to investigate the legitimacy of a tree that is suppose to possess mystical healing powers. Messina, whom is coming off his own medical problems vows like an aging thief that this will be his last job before taking a breaking.
Messina’s firm is soon entangled in a struggle over the tree’s power, which is completely understandable when dealing with a tree that produces leaves that challenge senzu beans’ healing ability.
Where the true beauty lies in “Leaves of The Tree” Novakovic’s ability to bring the worlds of family, law, the church and magic together in a way that instills hope instead of acting as a gut-punch that makes you lose all hope in humanity for a week. A huge part of the film’s effectiveness lies within its gorgeous locations.
Shot on location in Sicily, the Sicilian government would be doing itself a huge disservice if it did not use this film in a tourism ad-campaign. Novakovic takes full advantage of the locales, capturing the natural magic embedded in the environment. Do not be surprised if you catch yourself checking Expedia regularly for trips to Sicily after watching the film, viewer discretion is advised.
One draw back of the film is because the plot is so dense with characters, we do lose Roberts’ character for long periods of time in the film, so when the story does return to him, it feels a little fuzzy. The fact that this film is so much about family by the end of the film you do feel attached to almost everyone, so Roberts’ Messina disappearing does not effect the overall story—but it does take the sting out of climax, which features the power of the tree being used to heal him.
The cast does a fine job of drawing you into the world of the film. Because you are dealing with a very deep story, if the cast skews too much to the right or left with their performance, the audience checks out quicker than a guest at a bed bug infested hotel. Sean Young brings a motherly likeability to Messina’s wife, Sweetness. Marisa Brown, Kresh Novakovic (Ante’s brother) and Federico Castelluccio are also standouts
“Leaves of the Tree” delivers on several levels, it is a good break from the bleakness that fills every medium. Novakovic can walk away from his first feature knowing he was able to juggle huge ideas and an experienced cast…..and boosting Sicily’s tourism.