City of Trees

Romance/Drama, 1 hr 27 min

Synopsis: A 20 something woman goes back to her hometown for the holidays for the first time in several years and is not only met with people from her past, but she’s forced to deal with unresolved feelings too.


Watching this film is like being invited over to a nice family dinner; it is very homey, satisfying, and heart-warming.

Humble, understated, and nuanced, this film explores how people can evolve, and yet still let their former selves influence how they act and how they are perceived.

Like a coming-of-age film but set later in life, this is an honest portrayal of a 28-year-old woman (Ainsley) who grew up feeling like an outcast in her small hometown. She had left to pursue a career in ‘the big city’, only to return to her childhood home 7 years later for Christmas and have self-doubt and repressed feelings plague her once more.

Written by, directed by, and starring Alexandra Swarens, you can feel the sincerity in the words, the gestures, the emotions—like an intimate look into a tortured soul. Fear not though, love is in the air as Ainsley meets her former high-school crush, her family lift her spirits up, and an ‘unconditional’ friend helps lighten her sorrows. The romance between Ainsley and Sophie (played by Olivia Buckle) is sweet and develops naturally, with an occasional chuckle and perhaps a steamy scene for you to look forward to.

Personally, I very much enjoy watching characters with depth and complexity having their own stories told. Sometimes life does hit you hard, and sometimes you are too hard on yourself. People are flawed and no one is perfect. Like a techno song on a country radio station or a heartbeat with a murmur, the exception to the rule can be as much a part of the beauty as what surrounds it.

This film revels in what shapes a person—including everything from their past, their family, their loss, their regrets and their inhibitions. It is insightful, yet subtle, and sprinkled with love from different angles. The dialogue and the way the film is shot feels raw and draws you in; almost like you’re watching someone’s home video. There is no drama added for the sake of it, no grand gestures, no fancy special effects, nor fake sentiments. The family dynamic feels genuine and all the characters are relatable and they fumble in their own ways. Watching this film is like being invited over to a nice family dinner; it is very homey, satisfying, and heart-warming.

Watch the trailer

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Reviewer & Writer


Ping believes in the power of love and kindness, and that "love is love" no matter what shape or form it comes in. She would like to see positive representation for all walks of life in film and media.