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THE TREE OF LIFE – Movie Review

It’s difficult to put into words what writer/director Terrence Malick has done with The Tree of Life.  The audience in the showing I saw it at didn’t even know how to react, as they all walked out in dead silence, coming to their senses as to what they just saw.  And I was right there with them.

The Tree of Life, as previously mentioned, is written and directed by Terrence Malick, who is notoriously famous for making a movie every ten years or so.  And the dedication to craft and detail shows in spades with his latest film, as he’s been working on different cuts of the movie since 2007, when the film finished shooting.  The film’s common themes are the two ways through life: the way of nature and the way of grace.  And while it doesn’t necessarily have a structured plot, the focus of the movie is a family that is slowly collapsing, set in the 1950s.  The family has three young boys, and the father (Brad Pitt), who is very tough and stern, is a representation of nature, and the mother (Jessica Chastain), who is very peaceful and spiritual, is a representation of grace.  The film’s main focus within the family is Jack, who as a child is played by newcomer Hunter McCracken and as an adult is played by Sean Penn.  In the film, Jack is struggling internally and emotionally with his family, as he is deciding whether he wants to follow the path of nature or the path of grace.

The Tree of Life is essentially a series of different montages, ranging from the young boys growing up, to Jack as an architect in his adulthood, to the dawn of time (yes, I’m serious).  And the fact that this film is not told in a traditional narrative fashion will divide people, some marveling at what Malick has done, and some being completely angry and irritated at what they’ve watched.  I fall on the positive end of the spectrum.

What Malick has done with The Tree of Life is truly remarkable.  The amount of energy, time, and precision put into this film is astounding, and the cinematography is some of the best I have ever seen put to film.  From the gorgeous, vibrant effect shots in the evolution montage, to the daily scenes of the family, Malick is a true genius behind the camera.

The film also benefits from terrific performances, mostly coming from non-dialogue driven scenes.  Pitt and Chastain capture the contrast between nature and grace so naturally, and the audience truly feels for Jack’s emotional conflict the entire way through.

Also, Tree clocks in at over 2 hours, however the film’s atmosphere and characters are so engaging the entire time.  Malick takes us on an adventure that we’ve not seen anything like before, and I applaud him for it.  This is the best film I’ve seen all year.

FINAL RATING: 5/5

Share your thoughts in the comments!  The film is now playing in limited release.

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