The Tree of Life
4.5/5 MUST must see SEE
dir-scr Terrence Malick
prd Dede Gardner, Sarah Green, Grant Hill, Brad Pitt
with Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler, Tye Sheridan, Fiona Shaw, Jessica Fuselier, Nicolas Gonda, Will Wallace, Kelly Koonce, Bryce Boudoin
release US 27.May.11, UK 8.Jul.11
11/US 2h18
The Tree of Life
Daddy's boy: McCracken and Pitt

pitt penn chastain
Palme d'Or:

31st Shadows Awards

R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Tree of Life Malick takes a bold, intensely personal approach to this big story about life, the universe and everything. With echoes of Kubrick and Lynch, but in true Malick style, it's the kind of film we need to let wash over us rather than try to make sense of.

Jack O'Brien (McCracken, then Penn) grows up in the 1950s American Midwest with his harsh-but-caring dad (Pitt), loving mother (Chastain) and little brothers RL and Steve (Eppler and Sheridan). Over the years, events shift and shape the family, including illness, injury and death. But what does it all mean? And can the truths of humanity be traced back to the dawn of evolution or the age of the dinosaurs?

A kaleidoscopic style tells the O'Brien's story out of sequence, interspersed with the cosmos, primordial sea and, yes, dinosaurs. The photography and editing are smooth and lyrical, as scenes flow naturally into each other even though we're not sure why they're juxtaposed in quite this way. And along the way there are a few odd moments thrown in that leave us guessing, such as moments in an attic with a very tall man and a little boy, or a brief glimpse of a house fire followed by a scarred child.

But there's no need to fit the pieces together. The resonant central plot line plays out mainly without dialog, as gorgeous montage sequences depict key life moments, and the actors give extremely reflective performances. Malick's chief interest seems to be on the point where emotional and instinctual responses merge, so there are a lot of facial close-ups and moody monologs to go along with his usual images of trees waving in the sunshine and water rippling in the breeze.

In other words, the film is achingly beautiful, more like an essay about existence than a narrative drama. At several points voiceovers question God, echoing the opening quote from the Book of Job: "Where are you?" "Who are we to you?" And along with the internal yearning (such as Mr O'Brien's regret about not becoming a professional musician) there are explorations of compassion, responsibility and loyalty, all with an underlying sense of both menace and security. It's such an unusual, personal film that it really shouldn't be missed. Even if we're not quite sure what it means, we feel it.

cert 12 themes, violence 24.Jun.11

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The Tree of Life Perce, richmond hill, ontario: 1/5 "A very wierd, strange movie...did not like it at all. one of the worst movies along with Bachelor party 2 that I've seen in a long time. Acting was good but the story & presentation ...ugg." (3.Jul.11)
© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall