Movie ReviewsRating: 5 of 5 yaps

The Tree of Life

“The Tree of Life” suffers from having been called a masterpiece too many times before anyone had the chance to see it.

Terrence Malick is a beloved filmmaker despite a reclusiveness that’s seen him make only a few films over 40 years, and “The Tree of Life” had plenty of rumors about the scope of its story and seemingly incongruous use of dinosaur visual effects. Anticipation grew when the beautiful trailer arrived, and it appeared at the Cannes Film Festival to glowing reviews — even picking up the Palme d’Or. It felt like the backlash was going to begin before the film was even shown to the public.

The problem is that the film is a masterpiece.

Here I am adding to the hype and misconstrued pretension. The reason why Malick’s film succeeds in being incredible is because it is pure. This is a deeply personal film that examines the search of God through moments in the life of a family. The film begins with them in panic. One of the three boys has died young. The parents (Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain) are devastated, as they feel burdened by the silence of God.

Tales of God usually have characters experiencing joy or anger. Malick understands the relationship is a mixture and both are depicted at levels intimate and cosmic. The questions shift as the film jumps around through time. Most of the time is spent when the sons are young, but eldest son Jack is also seen as a lost businessman (played in adulthood by Sean Penn). The film also depicts some of the most gorgeous moments of the universe as creation is shown.

Beauty is everything in the moment. It is used as an extension of God as moments become art. There is a portion where it is questioned whether there is a God and the film’s argues that the wonders of the world could not exist without a God. It’s a spiritual film but not one associated with specific religious symbols. Instead, the film is like a prayer — a whispered prayer.

By itself, the film moves like poetry, but through its messages there is a strong story at its core. Jack (played as a child by Hunter McCracken) is conflicted about his upbringing. His mother is kind and gentle while his father is more abrasive. There isn’t a plot with them, aside from an ongoing story of the father trying to make his way in business. Instead, the film captures moments with subtly and grace. There are real bottled examinations of the human condition rarely seen in the cinema.

As praising as I am, this film is not for everyone. The lack of plot and its use of metaphorical imagery won’t be accepted by a wide audience. It is sometimes slow and difficult, but the film is satisfying if you trust the journey on which it takes you. If you like the structure of “Enter the Void,” you’ll like this film. If you like how characters evolve on shows like “Treme,” you’ll like this film. And if you love Malick, you will love this film because this is what he has spent his entire life working toward.

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16 Responses to “The Tree of Life”

  1. […] the critic talking about documentaries or foreign films or films that nobody has heard of or why “The Tree of Life” is masterful while “Just Go With It” isn’t. One can easily say that I am a bit snobby. It’s […]

  2. […] made a wonderful trilogy of this silence of god, but where are the other takes on the idea? In “The Tree of Life,” I believe the movie goes through five stages of emotional communication between a 1950s Texas […]

  3. toneloc1 says:

    I like Brad Pitts work and this got good reviews i may go see it.

  4. Angi B says:

    I think this movie looks very interesting.

  5. Andrew Doehrman says:

    I’m intrigued by this film, and might have to go see it.

  6. Dustin says:

    I’m not sure what to make of this movie just yet. I saw it this past Saturday and am still trying to make up my mind. I had been looking forward to it for well over a year. I thought it was going to premiere at the 2010 Cannes, only to be pushed back a year later. I have seen most of Malick’s stuff and I’m not blown away by it, but this one seemed different. The trailer alone was magnificent. All that to say, I don’t think this movie is for everyone. I hate to say this, but I was bored through a good deal of it, but even those parts were still thought-provoking. I still think I’m not completely in the "I didn’t like it" camp just because it’s Terrence Malick and I’m supposed to like it. Good review, I’m just not sure I agree with it.

  7. Amy says:

    This review makes me want to see this movie. I plan to see it soon.

  8. Paul D. says:

    I have read several good reviews on this movie and plan to see it soon.

  9. I like Brad Pitt, so I think I will give it a try….hope it’s a good movie.

  10. Michael Donley says:

    This movie has a lot to live up to already. I’m sure it’s a love it or hate it feature.

  11. Kelly says:

    Cannot wait to see this movie. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. Love movies that make me think!

  12. Amanda mosier says:

    I just saw this film over the weekend and loved it…it’s pure raw and simple. There isn’t any gimmicks to it just a beautiful movie and with such big actors as Pitt and Penn I felt like this is the best movie they have been in for years let the Oscar buzz start now

  13. Nik Browning says:

    This movie starts off with a quote from the biblical book of Job and again readdresses Job’s story later in the film. That should give you a starting point here toward the nature of this film. It’s a high concept art piece about the nature of man and man’s relationship with God.

    Humanity is represented by a 1950’s Texas family.Jessica Chastain is perfectly presented as the mother. She’s angelic, innocent, childlike and completely nurturing. On the other hand, the father, also excellently played by Brad Pitt, showing the duality of a man who is not cruel or really abusive. But his parenthood style is made of rule and order. He’s an ambitious engineer whose love is still apparent. But his harsh criticism-tactics push the eldest son into rebellion.

    Terrence Mallick has direct an obscenely beautiful movie. The earth’s creation scenes are obviously fantstic, like Kubrick’s 2001 imagery. But beyond that, even in the human sequences, are countless deliberately panned and shot scenes that tell stories within themselves. i.e. One with Sean Penn looking at his reflection in a pool of water which is framed by his own shadow. Or another where we see Pitt’s reflection in a window pane inside of his wife’s image on the other side of the pane. You don’t have to be an auteur to see the greatness in the direction.

  14. Kim Wilson says:

    This movie looks really good am going to have to see it when it comes out.

  15. Gina Wagner says:

    Of COURSE Austin wrote this review. Of COURSE he loves it. He is a film intellectual. He’s an old man living in a young person’s body. I say this all with love because we are friends.

    Normal people — You need a LOT of patience to even attempt this film. It floats around from memories to a Discovery channel nature documentary then when you’re just about to tear out your hair, it comes around to a narrative story. Then it floats around to Sean Penn and elevators and beaches and oooooh, so much symbolism, but if you wanted to watch a normal story about what it’s like to grow up as a young boy in that era, you’ll only get about forty-five minutes of watchable story. The rest might make you want to hit your head against a wall or walk out. It’s a very specific stylized film.