Bob Tarasuk is a natural force in his first feature film leading role as a middle-aged, woe begotten woodsman in “Bob and the Trees“. Tarasuk’s raw and realistic portrayal of a man busting his butt to keep from being eaten alive by financial disaster and utter desolation is uncompromisingly riveting and powerful.
Rookie full-length film director and co-writer Diego Ongaro (he has several shorts to his credit, including one that evolved into this production) displays an extraordinary understanding of the simple yet often lonely existence of those who live far apart from those of us running The Rat Race. And are damn grateful to be doing so. Usually.
In Bob, we discover an independent and self-made success as a logger and farmer. We also see that he seemingly devotes more attention and affection toward his livestock than he does his own wife, Polly (Polly MacIntyre in another remarkably authentic portrayal). Polly is actively pursuing autonomy in this relationship by creating a separate identity apart from her mostly negligent mate by means of elliptical training and self-help books. This burgeoning transformation barely registers with Bob, nor does it even appear to matter to him at all.
There is a scene (one of many spectacular cinematographic moments courtesy of the team of Chris Teague and Daniel Vecchione) toward the end of “Bob and the Trees” where for several moments we gaze straight through barren winter branches to a blue yet brutally brisk sky. It’s as if this tree is taunting. Tormenting. Driving home to Bob and all else who are at the mercy of its fruits for their very subsistence that it is in control here. This has always been reality; a truth that’s never going to change. It is practically meditative in nature. And yet it is one that speaks resolutely about the world in which year after punishing, strength-sapping year Bob has effectively been held captive; long ago abandoning any real hope of escape.
And so, as the final hardcore rap-fueled seconds of “Bob and the Trees” so fiercely reinforce, this man in the wilderness will fight on. Even against the longest of odds, Bob is ever wary that this is what he must do.
There is no alternative.