Far from the Tree - Movie Review by Ben Cahlamer

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Far From the Tree


Directed by Rachel Dretzin

Starring Andrew Solomon


A parent’s love is, or rather should be, unconditional. I don’t make this assertion lightly because I’ve known it first – hand. I know a good deal of what my parents had to endure to raise me and I feel their love even today. I am no different than the subjects in Rachel Dretzin’s documentary, “Far From the Tree,” which opens in Phoenix on Friday, August 10th.

Based on the bestselling book of the same name by Andrew Solomon, the documentary features Mr. Solomon’s story of his struggles with his sexuality and his acceptance of his parent’s support. A mother and her son are determined bring Down syndrome into the light, couple learn how to communicate with their nonverbal autistic son, a young woman deals with what it means to be the only little person in her family and parents whose love for their son only deepens after he has committed an unspeakable crime.

Dretzin’s documentary really sheds light on each subjects’ courage to persevere in the face of societal adversity in addition to their own adversity. Perspective is key in each of the stories being told and it celebrates the diversity, even as some tribal instincts seem to bubble to the surface in an effort to protect their uniqueness. As we explore each of our subjects, their own uniqueness comes to light and there is a parent or parents, or even family to provide support.

Solomon starts the story out from his own experiences of being gay, his journey and his parent’s reactions: “All parents deal with children who are not what they imagine.” This led him to look at the concept of family, not just gay families, but all families.

What Solomon uncovered is beauty in the face of adversity, that it should be celebrated and not feared. Yet, when your perspective is limited because you aren’t understood, it makes it difficult for us to cope. Dretzin takes us on a journey of self-discovery, a journey of compassion, something we don’t see too frequently, a journey of life.

There is a segment in the film that I had a challenge with, though I think it encompasses the parent’s struggles more confidently than other segments; it captured the essence of parenting, acceptance and life after a tragedy. Whoever created the trailer must’ve understood this experience as well, because it is front and center amongst all the other stories, but is no less or more important than the other experiences.

Families need to experience the joy of other’s uniqueness, especially kids. There were several instances where the subjects would mention difficulty with other kids in school settings. Acceptance of everyone is critical and understanding our differences is what makes us human.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and your idea of “normal” will be challenged at every corner of “Far From the Tree,” especially as our subjects discover themselves for what seems like the first time. The concept of “family” has just been confidently expanded, and its name is “Far From the Tree.”

Rating 3.5 out of 4