Simon & the Oaks moved me but only in small increments. This WWII story watches the Nazi invasion of Northern Europe through the eyes of a young child. Already persecuted in the schoolyard because he’s Jewish Simon finds solace in a treehouse in a giant majestic oak that he decorates with his imagination.
At about the half way mark Simon shifts ahead to after the end of the war, and with an older Simon (a different actor, one of the Skarsgard brothers) still conflicted but with new issues that rule his family life. A colorful palette and solid production values give the film the sense of a well done job; the period recreation is especially crucial to the reality of the film.
The older Simon still experiences a rich fantasy life exemplified by a newfound love of classical recordings and visions of nature. Only a family secret, revealed to Simon now that he’s mature only throws him into more turmoil. There’s no doubt that Simon has become a man when we see him enter into a sexual relationship with masochistic overtones. Simon & the Oaks, opening exclusively this weekend at the River Oaks Three, will play best with the art house crowd and fans with more refined judgment.
– Michael Bergeron