On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
Of all the movies and specials I’ve highlighted during 12 Days of Christmas Movies, this wonderful documentary may be the nicest surprise!
How many of you out there buy a real Christmas tree every year? If so, have you ever thought about where the trees actually come from, how they get to the place they’re being sold, or the lives of those who sell you the trees? Well, Brad Rothschild’s and John Reiner’s documentary takes you into the lives of those men and women you see once a year and most likely never think of again. That is, until after watching this film.
While many subjects are interviewed during the course of this movie, our main protagonist and definite heart and soul of the enterprise is Francois the Tree Man. Francois is a loving husband and father to three young children. They call Quebec their home, but for a month or so every year, Francois heartbreakingly leaves them behind and travels to New York to sell Christmas trees.
The film begins with his trek across the border, as he tearfully bids another temporary farewell to his family. We soon meet the people of New York, New Jersey, and the surrounding areas who Francois consider his second family. They include the men who help him sell and deliver the trees, local business owners and restaurateurs who welcome him outside of their establishments, and of course the tree buyers themselves, many of whom have been patronizing Francois for years and would never think of buying from anyone else.
Take my word for it, you won’t believe how engrossed and moved you’ll be by this simple man and his story. In my opinion, documentaries have a peculiar power and individualistic spirit that no fictional film can achieve because they aren’t based on true stories but are the actual true stories themselves. TREE MAN is a perfect example!
Francois lives in his van during the weeks he is in New York. One of his helpers is a struggling single father whose children live out of state and whose income from helping Francois goes toward helping them have a better life than his own. A kindly lady who has gotten to know Francois very well during his annual treks out of country allows him to frequent her home to shower and get cleaned up. He is a hero to the little children as he allows them to help trim and package the tree for delivery. He is a confidant to those loyal customers he’s known for years. They share with him the joys and struggles of the year about to close, and Francois knows them all by name.
I can’t quite verbalize the subtle and quiet power generated during the time we spend with Francois the Tree Man and those around him. This is undoubtedly one of the best films available to watch if you’re really needing a dose of Christmas spirit. We witness the annual sacrifice he makes leaving behind his family during a time of the year when family seems most important. We witness his vulnerability to the elements of snow, ice, wind, and freezing temperatures. And our hearts are warmed by the testimonials of those who have been touched by Francois’ kind spirit, good humor, and love of what he does and the people he meets.
You’ll leave TREE MAN feeling like you’ve made a new friend, and I guarantee the next time you go buy your Christmas tree, you’ll give an extra special smile to the person who assists you. I can’t recommend this film more highly.
Tomorrow, we celebrate the holidays with some familiar friends I’m sure you’ll recognize!
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