When I first saw a preview of this film over a year ago, I was immediately caught up in the excitement by the opportunity to escape the confines of mere mortal Earth courtesy of the esteemed director and minimalist visionary, Terrence Malick, he of Waco, Texas pedigree.
Even though I’d see the trailer several more times, I still couldn’t make heads or tails of what to expect. I was mystified… even more.
After being led through airport like security, I was admitted, got Russ situated, sat down behind him… and awaited…
Oh my goodness.
This film doesn’t bash you over the head and tell you what to think, how to feel. No such crass manipulation here. No no.
You are instead told a story through images, for the most part, that allow you to take part, as this movie will evoke countless emotions. Like another daring and bold movie Terrence made, “Days of Heaven”, an extraordinarily beautiful film that told a compelling story with very little dialogue, “The Tree of Life” also employs this concept of silence and space.
The actors chosen are pitch perfect in their respective roles: Brad Pitt, the tough as nails but loving father, Jessica Chastain, the ethereal goddess, protective mother, Sean Penn the troubled, brooding later in life child of the two, and the children actors, especially, Hunter McCracken, the younger version of Penn’s character who is so believable watching him going through his rites of passage in becoming a man.
You are taken on some mind bending trips, a dinosaur reconsidering his murderous inclinations, the big bang beginning of Earth itself which makes the ending psychedelic sequence of the Kubrick film, “2001 A Space Odyssey’” seem almost tame in comparison, to meeting everyone you’ve met or known from your past after passing through a wooden portal on a beach, a veritable surrealistic roller coaster of sights and emotions is this film.
Everyone seeing “The Tree of Life” will walk away with their own unique experience, which will continue to replay a host of emotions you’ve experienced during your own coming of age.
And true to Malick form, every scene of this movie is one poignant, masterful photograph after another.
The ending also will allow you to make up your own mind as to exactly what just happened. You are allowed to define your very own ending depending on your own personal experiences as you relate them to this film. Such a rare pleasure.
Even though a very challenging film, Malick is determined to give you a movie experience like no other. He delivers.
“The Tree of Life” premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival where it won the elusive Palme d’Or. When after the first showing of the film half of the audience booed, the other half gave it a standing ovation. That response alone should tell you something.
I feel so very lucky to have grown up during the creative lifetime of one, Terrence Malick. I thank him for his vision, his bravery in challenging the norm, the status quo. And delivering… in exquisitely grand style.
“The Tree of Life “, a film for the ages, by the ages, of the ages.