Imaginary friends are a normal part of childhood. The young girl in director Eliza Johnson’ s touching short “Tree,” however, may be taking the concept a step too far. Living in a virtual rural isolation with her father following her mother’s death, the girl befriends a splendid old tree in her backyard. Actually, “befriend” probably isn’t the most accurate description to use. What she’s really doing is attempting to transform the tree into a surrogate mom; adorning it with her mother’s jewelry, draping it with her mom’s clothes, spraying it with perfume, etc. This understandably concerns her still-suffering father who must help his daughter come to terms with her loss so that he can deal with his.
A poignant, beautifully photographed film, “Tree” receives a little extra touch of the exotic by having mixed race parents; the father Caucasian, the mother, Indian. Not important to the story at all — save for the girl’s desire for curry clashing with her dad’s penchant for fixing PBJs for lunch — this nonetheless adds an extra subtle layer of tension to an already fine film.