I just saw an extraordinary movie. The Tree of Life is about the mystery that we live our lives in, that surrounds us all.
I’m not a film critic. I’m just a lover of good films. This film is worth blogging about to spread the word. If I liked it, maybe you will too, if you’ve found your way here.
It’s hard to describe this film because it’s so different from most movies. It doesn’t really have a linear narrative, and yet it does, so if someone asks you what it’s about, you could say it’s about a central Texas family in the 1950s or early 1960s, a mother, father, and three boys.
It’s not the kind of movie you go to to escape your own life. Instead it leads you into your own life.
It is really an attempt to capture on film the experience of living a human life, from childhood into middle age, encountering love, destruction, loss, and reconciliation, in the context of all of creation, within the constraints of the way we Americans are taught to connect to creation through the Biblical God.
I think this filmmaker, Terrence Malick, probably did as good a job as anyone could with this subject matter! Or better.
The beginning and end skip around in time, from a middle-aged man and his boyhood, a mother receiving news of a death, to the natural world and the vastness of creation, while the middle is more solidly about the family. However, the film never gets too far away from people whispering plaintively to God, “Why are we here?” “What are you?” “Why should I be good if you’re not good?” “What have I started?”
I would say this is a spiritual film, a prayer, even, in the tradition of Judeo-Christianity. It begins with a quote from Job, and it plays with the western archetypes of man and woman. It shows the family up close and very intimately, mostly from a child’s point of view — the sibling friendship and rivalry, the love and hatred toward the parents (especially the sometimes-tough, sometimes-loving father), the encountering of good and evil in others and oneself, and the inevitable separation and loss of innocence followed by the return to grace through love.
Scene after scene captures the ineffable beauty of nature, both of the natural world and of human nature, even when it is cruel and mindless.
The soundtrack is amazingly beautiful and suitable.
I spent part of my childhood in small town Texas at the time of this family, and I could relate to the fireflies and fireworks, live oaks, Willow ware, and so much more.
Brad Pitt and Sean Penn are so well known, it’s hard to get past thinking “That’s Brad Pitt playing a role, acting with his lower lip.”
Sean Penn’s role was confusing. Was his character marrying a beautiful woman 30 years younger than he? Or was that a flashback?
The mother and the three boys were well written and cast. The older one really carried that part of the film more than anyone. The actor playing the middle son looks like he could be Brad Pitt’s actual son, there’s such a strong resemblance.
Even though it’s hard to describe this film, go see it anyway. It’s an experience. And if you’re from Austin, it’s a joy to see local landmarks like Barton Springs, Hamilton Pool, the interior of the state capitol building, and shots of the Colorado River.