“Far from the Tree” is a documentary based on a widely praised book by Andrew Solomon. His book, and now this movie, documents several families where there have been difficult circumstances – specifically when a child is not entirely like the parents. That is, when the apple falls ‘far from the tree’. In these cases, it shows that patience, acceptance and love will bring all the members back into the fold.
Solomon first explains that his own childhood was unique and he felt different. He realized that the ‘normal; life of his parents would not work for him, because he was gay. This devastated his mother and his father was not at all impressed. But the story from Andrew Solomon is nothing compared to the other families that are investigated.
Jason Kingsley is a Down’s syndrome child, who was even featured on early episodes of Sesame Street when he was a kid. He never lacked the love and support from his mother, and now in his early 40’s Jason lives a full life. He lives with two other roommates (who share his condition). He has a job and he loves his friends and his family. But he has difficulty knowing that Disney’s “Frozen” is really just a movie. He has a major crush on Elsa, and he cannot ‘Let It Go’…
Another person we meet is Jack, who was a normal little boy – until he wasn’t. About age 2 years old he stopped communicating, and he seems to be in his own world. He had a severe case of autism, and his parents tried again and again to get some help. One thing they tried finally had some success. Jack was soon able to use a device to select letters, and then he created full sentences. With a voice-box, he was able ask and answer questions. He is now able to live as a functioning high-school student.
Then the journey takes you to the Little People of America conference. These folks who have dwarfism can lead quite normal lives. They just do it a little closer to ground level. A couple named Leah and Joe are married and are planning on having a child. Joe’s parents are ‘normal-sized’ people, and all of them think is nothing unusual to have a family with various sizes. Joe is not worried or depressed about his condition, so he takes it all in stride. Again, there is that theme of acceptance and love. It is really the cement that holds these stories together.
The one other family situation that gets reviewed is the story of Trevor. He was a nice kid, with wonderful parents, and had a trouble-free childhood. But, when Trevor was 13, he killed an eight-year old child in the neighborhood. There was no warning and no foreshadowing. He still says that he does not know why he did it. Obviously, this has taken his family, parents and a bother and sister, and given them a brutal situation to deal with. They have no easy way to explain anything to anyone. The parents still love their son, but they know that he will never be a free man.
Overall, “Far from the Tree” takes a look at some unusual family circumstances and shows that it does not need to be the end of the family. All of the different ways that some people might consider ‘disabled’, these people and these families prove that they can be-able, just in a unique way. It is done in a consistent manner, and moves along with great ease.
Some family situations are more intense than others. But they all show that it does not matter if you are near to the tree, or far from the tree. It only matters that the tree has some really deep roots…
In Phoenix, playing exclusively at Harkins Shea in Scottsdale