There is no English-speaking actress better suited to star in a Southern Gothic film than Deborah Kara Unger. Her odd, exotic face - high cheekbones, narrow eyes, and features that seem foreign to one another - gives an air of strangeness to even the most mundane of moments, while her carriage more often than not creates a dramatic gulf between herself and the viewer. It is appropriate, then, that her character occupies the center of Things That Hang from Trees, the debut feature from American-born, Israeli-raised, Ido Mizrahy; the director relies very strongly on the strangeness of his star for the film’s power.
Unger plays Connie Mae Wheeler, a single mother in St. Augustine, Florida whose reliance on a purse full of pharmaceuticals only increases her distance from the world. Half-heartedly raising a young son, Tommy, (ably played by Cooper Musgrove), Connie Mae spends most of her time either working in her lingerie shop or posing in its window, acting as a mannequin. Tommy, meanwhile, is in a world of his own for a variety of reasons including his mother’s aloofness, childhood trauma, and what appears to be slight mental retardation - those in St. Augustine who care for him prefer to call him “quiet,” or “simple.” Though precious little really happens in Things That Hang from Trees, Tommy’s desire to watch the annual fireworks display alone, from the top of the town lighthouse, gives it what passes for a plot.