The Tree of Life is director Terrence Malick‘s 5th film in a career spanning over 30 years. Malick is a true visionary and it shows in each and every one of his films. His eye for detail and the way he displays moving images is breath taking and unlike any other person working in Hollywood alive or dead. The Tree of Life is a very big movie with a wide scope and I can see where it will automatically receive hate from its viewers due to its experimental filmmaking, but for those willing to go beyond the normal world of films, those who are looking to peel back multiple layers of a film and discover many meanings, The Tree of Life will indeed be a favorite of yours. It’s unlike anything that has ever been released. The closest comparisons I could try and think of would be 2001: A Space Odyssey, Enter the Void and maybe even Anti-Christ. But even those movies are vastly different from The Tree of Life. They all consist of bold and innovative filmmaking by very passionate directors and the end result is quite spectacular.
On the surface The Tree of Life can be described in multiple ways. It’s about the beginning of time, the meaning of life, a relationship between a boy and his father, a relationship between a boy and God. There are so many things you can say The Tree of Life is about and not one of them is false. The way in which the film is so experimental is by the way Malick decides to tell the story. Instead of allowing the viewer to follow one narrative, he insists on taking you for a cinematic adventure. Malick never chooses to focus on one specific point in time too long; instead he bounces back and forth from the beginning of the cosmos to the childhood lessons learned by one of our main characters.
It’s this wide range that makes this film something of an event. It’s not like going to the cinema with some friends for a few hours to escape life, it becomes life. The film manages to relate to everyone and everything at one point or another throughout its running time. It manages to bring back those innocent childhood memories without using things like pop culture references. It manages to grasp those raw emotions that make you feel young again.
Several things manage to help excel the film from a great movie to a timeless classic. Things like the beautiful score, which was composed by Alexandre Desplat. It’s very empowering and atmospheric. The forming of the cosmos paired with Desplat’s music alone is a reason why this film needs to be seen on the big screen.
Terrence Malick proves again why he is considered one of the greatest directors living by providing us with a very grand film. The luscious visuals accompany Malick’s steady direction and Desplats powerful score. Malick has always been a very calm, yet ambitious filmmaker and The Tree of Life shows that he still has that same ability that he has used in the past on films like The Thin Red Line or The New World.
The performances are very strong by everyone involved. Jessica Chastain plays Mrs. O’Brien, the soft and loving mother that represents the way of grace. She steals every scene she’s in by providing such a rock solid performance as a mom. The scenes with her and her son Jack (Hunter McCracken) steal the show. The relationship feels very real and very personal.
Hunter McCracken‘s portrayal of young Jack is very impressive for a debut role into major films. He captures that childlike sense of wonder, full of energy and wanting to rebel against anything. Where Chastain captures the beauty of everything, young Jack manages to capture the curiosity of the world that surrounds us.
Playing the adult version of Jack is Sean Penn. While his performance is good, it’s nowhere near as impressive as the rest of the cast, mainly because of the nature of his character. He starts out very dark and depressing and by the end of his transition he does give off a sense of hope and understanding. The only downside to all of that is Penn is only in the beginning and ending of the film with bits sprinkled in the middle. His performance is a good one, but it becomes overshadowed by the rest of the stunning cast.
Brad Pitt rounds out the cast playing the father, Mr. O’Brien. His representation of nature is that of the strict and mean father that wants his boys to grow up strong and tough. He has good intentions, but they tend to be shaded with his discipline. Pitt did an excellent job. Mr. O’Brien is a very cold character at the beginning of the film, but slowly as the film unfolds you get to see what his real intentions always were.
Overall, The Tree of Life is one of the most breath taking films I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. Each frame manages to outdo the last with its stunning visuals and grand scheme of things. The film is very experimental in the way it tells its tale and I can see that being a problem for a lot of people. It’s pacing takes its time, but it really pays off for those willing to wait. The film is far from being cut and dry. It asks a lot of questions but doesn’t give too many straight answers; instead you must find your own answers, your own meanings of the film. If the trailer interested you and you’ve enjoyed some of Malick’s past films then by all means see this film, but if you’re not one for longer films with a more open story, you may find this one to be a bit tedious. Multiple viewings will only enhance the experience!
The Tree of Life – 9.5/10