Short Film Review “The Burning Tree”



First, the Recap:

The secrets that we keep and best of intentions we purpose to enact. When we look at those we cherish and the desire to be assured of helping them maintain solid footing in life, there’s not much we wouldn’t do for them.  This is especially apparent in the relationship between children and their parents, a nurturing bond that can weather almost any storm. It is a rainy day, and Mark Keller (Adam Wahlberg) has made the choice to spend the day hiking in the local woods with his son Evan (Cole Geissler), despite the normal teenage reluctance to be spending free time with a parent Evan displays.

Trying to assuage Evan’s complaining and simply encourage him to enjoy the time they have together, Mark’s attempts to do so begin to get constantly interrupted by cell phone calls, ones which Mark seems a little more than agitated by. Even with Evan’s insistence about asking who keeps trying to reach him, Mark brushes it off as “no one” even as it is discovered the caller is local police detective Leo Polisano (Philip Jacobson) who is more than adamant about Mark coming in for reasons yet unknown. As Mark’s own discomposure begins to reach a breaking point, the hidden truths are exposed that reveal a much more grim and heart-rending intent.

Next, my Mind:

With an innocent beginning that then takes a gut-wrenching, wince-inducing turn by the end of its brief 10-minute runtime, director/producer/co-writer Keith Chamberlain’s short film more than adequately offers an eerily fresh but darkly sobering take on the concept of “how far would a parent go to protect their child?” The effectiveness of the delivery here is made manifest via a slowly building tension and purposefully veiled factors involved in the narrative that only explode into reality during the final few minutes, therefore allowing for maximum and blatantly shocking impact on the viewer. Trust this reviewer, it is one affecting gut punch.

Wahlberg is truly excellent in his role as Mark, a husband and father whose initially calm demeanor and irreproachable manner hide a much more unsettled ambition masked by a carefree walk in the woods with his son. The events that transpire as he engages in pleasant yet ultimately trivial conversation with Evan while then witnessing his growing anger and desperation when speaking to the police is both unnerving and revealing, even as the endgame comes about with brutal precision and remorseful anguish. Wahlberg encompasses this wide-ranging gamut of emotions with very convincing delivery.

Geissler is solid as Evan, a young teen whose baffled attitude about why his father wants to spend a day hiking in the woods is only tempered when the primary reasons are brought to bear, and it’s a moment of distressed realization well enacted by the young actor. Jacobson’s lead police detective Polisano is a study in one man’s job-related, yet deeply human, attempts to talk a man down from the edge, coaxing Mark with words that challenge him not to take actions he will regret. It’s an impassioned performance and likewise realistic in its execution thanks to Jacobson’s rendering of the character.

Great supporting turns are provided by Kathryn Wylde as Polisano’s fellow detective Jackie Hess, whose discovery at the Keller home becomes a major catalyst leading up to the film’s stunning turn of events, Wesley Green as police officer Hank Green, the officer who paired with Hess to search the Keller residence, along with Kyle Harter and Will D. Rodriguez as other police personnel. In total, “The Burning Tree” is one well-done indie film effort that carries with it messages both plausibly and painfully relevant to the modern issues we face in today’s society.  It presents the kind of story we know we’ve seen unfold far too often as it is, but chooses to add an even more disturbing premise that we truly hope we will never know as actuality.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!

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