Mark’s Tree of Life Review

Posted: November 17, 2011 by simplytwistedproductions in Reviews
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The wait is finally over. After years of hype and release date changes and rumors of insane visual effects, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life opened this summer. Everybody wondered whether it was worth the wait and hype and there have been varying opinions on it. But did I enjoy it? Find out after the jump.


I am a huge Terrence Malick fan and if somebody had a gun to my head and demanded to know my favorite director I would probably say Terrence Malick. With that being said this review is probably going to be biased because I admire him and his filmmaking techniques so much. All of his films I feel are brilliant. The Thin Red Line is in my top 20 of all time and even his worst film which I feel is The New World would be anybody else’s masterpiece.

However, there are a lot of people who can’t stand the man and his movies. Most commonly I hear detractors of Malick say that his films are pretentious, long, and without point. I disagree with all three of those complaints wholeheartedly. The Tree of Life is most definitely a Terrence Malick film so if you feel that way about his films you will most likely feel that way about this film. I would still suggest you go see it but see it with an open mind and try to see why other people love him so much. It might unlock a whole new way of watching movies and even the way you view the world.

I absolutely love this film though and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. It is a film about religion, fatherhood, childhood, life and death, and pretty much any other heavy topic we think about on a daily basis. It uses a family and specifically a boy being raised in the 1950’s to go through all of these topics. Brad Pitt plays the father and Sean Penn plays the older version of the boy.

I will start off with the many things I loved, with Brad Pitt’s performance. It is a role I would not have thought he could have pulled off before this film but man he really nails it. He was completely believable as a tough nosed father who does not really have a great connection with his kids. A worse film would have made him a terrible father and would have made it easier to dislike him, but not this one. You can tell he is still a great father he is just a tough disciplinarian who has many regrets about his life and is trying to help his kids avoid those. You still feel the love he has for his family and so there is a conflict in your own head whether he is to blame for the lost connection or the kids.

I also really enjoyed Jessica Chastin’s portrayal of the mom. Even though she didn’t have much dialogue I thought she perfectly evened out Pitt’s performance as the tough father. In some scenes I felt as if she was nurturing me and my thoughts. She had such a warm presence and I think she is an actress to watch out for.

Hunter McCraken’s portrayal of young Jack was also a highlight of the film. He seemed wise beyond his years but he still had an innocence to him. I really connected with his character and most of his questions and issues I have experienced myself. He also had the perfect big brother feeling to him. His chemistry with Pitt as his son was also something to behold.

As with every other Malick film he uses amazing imagery and subtle shots to tell his story and go deep into philosophical questions. I think very blatantly the mother and father of the story was an allegory for Mother Nature and God. This is prevalent through the film and really asks some deep questions. They were questions that I have myself and since I watched the film I can’t get them out of my head. The imagery he uses to go into this is absolutely incredible and I am sure I will find even more images to consider when I inevitably watch this film a few times more. You will probably get something totally different out of the images and that is part of the magic of Malick. Criterion hopefully will pick this up in the future and give it the stunning Blu-ray release it really deserves.

It wasn’t just about God and religion though. It was the most accurate and profound portrait of growing up as a teenage boy. There are times that it really hit me that this was exactly what it was like. By that I mean what young Jack is thinking and doing as I understood them completely. It also had a lot to say about family and being an older brother. These scenes were especially emotional and wonderful because again I really felt like they were real. Malick is the best at building things up to emotional climaxes. I always know that every image is all building towards a scene that is going to be especially emotional and wonderful.

Overall though I fell completely in love with The Tree of Life and will see it several times more, hopefully in the theater. It doesn’t have a structured plot or anything but it is like a poem. By that I mean that everyone will interpret it’s meaning differently but there is one thing that I think everyone will agree on and that is the beauty of the film. If you just watched it on mute (I wouldn’t do that though because the score is excellent.) you could still appreciate it and get something from it. I really do want more people to see this film and talk to me about it. It would be a really great, hours long discussion that would break all barriers and would be really special. Just see it with an open mind and really pay attention to the imagery because he is not just putting it there because it is pretty. Malick is putting it there because it means something. Some of it I am still not sure and will continue to think about. There is nothing that is like walking out of Malick movie for better or worse and this film was no different so please go support this work of art

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