Unrated; 122 min.
Simon and the Oaks is a warmly done family drama that covers familiar territory, but in its own way.
Given that Simon follows the fortunes of two interlinked Swedish families from 1939 to 1952, it's not surprising that the source material is a bestselling novel, in this case one by Marianne Fredricksson that has sold more than 4 million copies worldwide. Because of the time frame, it's also to be expected that the Holocaust will be a factor in the plot.
But, as directed by Lisa Ohlin from a script by Marnie Blok, Simon provides unexpected textures and twists for its story. Simon starts in 1939, introducing 9-year-old Simon (Jonatan Wachter), who spends his happiest times fantasizing about exotic adventures in a treehouse built on what he feels is a magical oak that speaks to him. Simon's exasperated father, Erik (Stefan Godicke), wonders why his son isn't like other kids, why he has no interest in fighting or working with his hands.
It's at school that Simon makes fast friends with Isak (Karl Martin Eriksson), a Jewish boy whose wealthy father, Ruben (Jan Josef Liefers), has fled from Germany with his family because of the Nazi rise to power. Then the Second World War arrives, and it does unexpected things to these two families.
One of the most involving aspects of Simon and the Oaks is its sense that there was no real recovery for the survivors, no going back for damaged people in a damaged world.
In Swedish, German and Hebrew with English subtitles.
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-- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times