The Tree of Life (2011)

The Tree of Life (2011) — My friend Tim recently characterized Terrence Malick as “my favorite film-maker whose films will put me to sleep the first time I see them.” This was not intended dismissively as the point was, I think, that he tends to re-watch them (also a comment on their meditative pace). Likewise, though I remained perfectly conscious for the two hour and twenty minute running time, I feel I won’t really have a full opinion formed about The Tree of Life until i see it again. At present I only have a feeling about it, but it’s a damn good one. The film is about the family of Jack O’Brien, played as an adult by Sean Penn and as a child by Hunter McCracken (who is amazing). In one of the film’s many voice-over narrations (a staple of Malick’s) Jack’s mother (Jessica Chastain) says that in life there is only “the way of nature or the way of grace.” It becomes clear VERY quickly that she represents the latter while Jack’s father (Brad Pitt) represents the former. The film does not proceed chronologically. Malick’s films tend to focus more on philosophical contemplation than plot. The film jumps around a lot in time from Jack’s childhood, to his adulthood, back to his childhood, to the origins of the universe and life on this planet (proving once more that every movie is better with dinosaurs). In a forty year career this is only Malick’s fifth film; the man takes his time to do things right. At times, The Tree of Life feels almost like a prayer and there is most definitely a spiritual side to it. Until I see it again (probably on Blu Ray) I can’t really articulate my opinion on the film, but I am glad I saw it and will be thinking about it for some time to come…

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