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The Tree of Life
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The Tree of Life More at IMDbPro »

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Flawed, but not lacking in Merit

Author: souplipton from Canada
12 July 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After watching this film, I found it difficult to rate (something I do with every film I watch). Unlike most films, I did not love it or like it or dislike it or hate it. I could not place it in any of those categories because I found myself thinking that within the film that I watched was a masterpiece, but that masterpiece wasn't the final product that was shown on the screen. The film is a grand meditation on the meaning of life and the essence of morality, framed within the existential crisis of a middle aged man remembering his childhood, but touching on the creation of the world, the start of life on our planet, and the progression of life from that point until the birth of our protagonist. The core of the story is the main character's struggles with his parents competing influences. This story, the one of the man's childhood and it's effect on the adult he grows to be, has the potential to be a masterpiece of cinema. It makes up the bulk of the film and it is absolutely great. However, I found the grander parts of the film which gave the film its epic scope detracted from the effect of this primary narrative. I found that even when I was immensely enjoying the film, I myself being bothered by the inclusion of those extraneous parts. I found myself frustrated by this, as I saw a landmark film detracted from in such a major way, and wished that the director would have gone smaller and more focused in scope, and given us the touching human story that makes up the real narrative of the film. I would recommend the viewing of this film to cinephiles, but I would caution that many may find the experience frustrating, a feeling to which I can relate.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

If emotionless aliens wanted to understand not only what it was like to be human but understand the cycle of life on planet Earth, this would be the right movie.

Author: David Plumer
22 June 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


Don't let the synopsis fool you. Here the real synopsis: A journey through the various stages of life

This movie has been called a masterpiece by some and pointless bullshit by others. I am in the school of thought that it is almost a masterpiece. This is one of those movies that if you are told what it is about or you read a synopsis, it sounds like pretentious, surreal, and annoying. I assure it is not. This movie is not for everyones taste, but if it appeals to you, than you'll never forget it. The first hour of this movie is quite simply mesmerizing. Everything at first appears to be random but then you realize what it all means. This is the story of the various stages of life and creation. The old-fashioned visuals done by Douglas Trumbell of 2001 fame are great as is the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki. This is a very human film and it is so seemingly complex yet so simple.

Although everything described makes this movie sound like it is perfect, it is not. Nothing in this movie is anything close to bad but it is a very very good movie that could have been a masterpiece. Although all of the movie serves it's purpose and is in part based on Terrence Mallick's childhood, I think this movie could have been even better if it was shorter. I found the first hour and 20 minutes of the film is so unique, powerful, and engaging enough to make you forget you are watching a film. Although there is plenty of good things left to come, it began to feel less like an experience and more like a movie. As an example, I became aware of it being redundant mainly with it's voice-over/montage scenes and it's thematically redundancies about growing up. Although still well done, I just wish that this movie had been cut down by about 25 to 30 minutes. Although I will note, it picks up again a lot in the end. If that were the case, it would have been utterly fantastic and I would have given it a 10 out of 10.

As for the acting and the script, Terrence Mallick has a great script here. I didn't even think about the script until the end of the movie because it was so realistic it seemed more like real life dialogue than scripted dialogue. That is one great element throughout. As for the acting, it is subtly great. Brad Pitt. Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken, and most of rest of the cast are very convincing. That is the real test of acting. Can you convince someone that you can not only play like a gangster or an alien, but a real human being? Most of the actors achieve this. I didn't care for Sean Penn in this movie mainly because he was in it for so little and he is such a big name, that I think a less recognizable actor would have made more sense for his role.

I give this movie a 8 as opposed to what it sounds like it should be, a 7, because what it does it gets right, it gets really right. Great execution, great character development, great effects, great cinematography, great acting, great direction, and realistic as hell, if not a bit overlong.

Definitely see this movie. Even those who hate it will admit, it is one of the most unique movies ever made.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The Universe brings the film down, The family brings it back.

Author: Jack Higginbotham
26 April 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

All of the beautiful images Malick has presented here, from the formation of the universe, to the bacteria that forms the human beings we start to care for, feels out of place with the rest of the film. The film is so good at making us care for these characters as actual people that when Malick shows us the bigger picture it makes us feel the time we invested in the characters story was wasted because the universe goes on with or without you and it wont help you with your problems. Moreover it just doesn't feel right to parallel a story of family problems against the trials and tribulations of the universe. It seems out of place and in the end the images that bookend the film are forgotten about, as beautiful as they may be, they don't have the same weight the middle of the film had, in the end it feels more pretentious than inspiring.

The use of Adult Jack was a good idea, showing a man who is out of touch with the world, looking back at his childhood and his broken relationship with his father. The way The Tree Of Life is filmed feels like memories, memories that are painfully realistic in the worst of times and beautiful, slow, bright images in the best. Malick uses the beauty of nature to his advantage giving the film dream like qualities, the feeling that what your seeing is too graceful to be real. The way he films Jacks mother (Played by Jessica Chastain)as this mother nature character, the voice of reason, the ray of hope in a world of darkness and despair, shes almost like a ghost, you know she's there but she never gets involved enough to become real.

Mr O'Brien, a man who was treated unfairly by the world he resides in, is an angry, bitter man because of it. He is strict towards his children, controlling nearly all aspects of their lives. He isn't an evil man, he wants the best for his children, he sees the world as a cruel, corrupt place and he wants to be sure that his children are ready for it. He wants to make sure that his children follow their dreams, the way he never could. He is a troubled man and we root for him to overcome the emotional wall thats separating him from his wife and children.

The Tree Of Life is flawed, no doubt about that. It tries to link the trials and tribulations of the universe to the trials and tribulations of a broken family and it ends up feeling disjointed. However, in saying that, the story of the family is so real, the cinematography so gripping that it manages to overcome its faults.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Certainly not your typical movie...

Author: Mark Lorman from United Kingdom
2 March 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There is no definitive plot and this is certainly not your typical movie...

The opening I found a little difficult, the abstract scenes and whispering was perhaps a bit too subtle, just loud enough for you to grasp the general concept (grace v nature). However; great cinematography, the insight into a 1950's family life and a journey around the cosmos was, I believe, relative and stunning. I am not going to try to explain this film as I believe it is open to your interpretation and personal life experiences.

The film deals life, death, loss and to a lesser extent whether God exists; being an Atheist the religious aspects didn't interest me but I can see that the family's Catholic background would be just as relevant for any denomination; although there are no (I believe) religious sermons or moral lessons to be learned. From the start the film seems to be trying to help us make sense of life and death by showing the fragility of our existence compared to the vastness of time and space.

The line: "Father, mother. Always you wrestle inside me, always you will" is, for me, perfect. My father passed away a number of years ago and I still try to make sense of a difficult relationship; where regret, guilt and misunderstanding kept us emotionally distant. After watching this film I felt a little lighter, knowing that I am not alone with these thoughts.

Except for the whispering, there is very little dialogue, Malick (for the most part) uses music and visuals to tell the story, with atmospheric shots of scenery and photography, to the hypnotic and haunting soundtrack; when there is dialogue, it provokes thought. However, in my view The Tree of Life gives little in the way of answers to the meaningful questions it poses and should just be enjoyed for the cinematic treat it is...

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Another one of Those Movies...

Author: framptonhollis
30 August 2015

...that too many people saw who clearly weren't the target audience. Here's the conversation I bet happened to about half of the people who accidentally went to the theater to watch this movie without knowing it's one of those really artistic movies:

"So, do you want to go see a movie?"

"Sure, what should we see?"

"Well, 'The Tree of Life' has Brad Pitt in it. I know who he is."

"Okay, let's go see that!"

...and in the middle movie they walk out! You want to know why? Because this movie isn't for them! It is for a very specific audience. The audience that Terrence Malick attracts! Fans of "The Thin Red Line" and "Days of Heaven" will probably love this movie!

Malick's signature style is just flat out not for mainstream viewers. "The Tree of Life" is the opposite of mainstream! However, there is one aspect of the film that everyone can agree is a positive, the imagery. This is by far one of the most absolutely beautiful films of all time! If everybody can agree on something about director Terrence Malick, is that he knows how to create a visually breathtaking experience.

The film, in my opinion, is a very great film to please the viewer's emotions. It is a movie that you shouldn't necessarily think about all that much, and just have your emotions take over. Go into this film and be ready to allow your emotional side to take complete control. However, if you dislike Terrence Malick and/or experimental cinema, you just should flat out not watch this movie unless you're forced to.

It is an unconventional, avant-garde film, if you don't like films like that, avoid this film with all your strength!

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Malick cements his place among the pantheon of great Christian artists.

Author: Jonmad17 from United States
4 June 2015

It might be ridiculous to hold such a hyperbolic opinion regarding a film that's barely 4 years old, but The Tree of Life might actually be my favorite movie of all time. Being able to understand the film isn't paramount to being able to appreciate it, but it helps. What Malick is doing is retelling the Biblical story of Job through the prism of his own childhood, and detailing his eventual return to Christianity. And instead doing this with a proper narrative, he chooses to tell the story the way memory works: using snippets, feelings, images rather than plot or dialogue.

The universe creation scene was likely an to allusion to God's answer to Job. If you're not familiar with the story, Job was a man who had a crisis of faith after losing everything: his wife, children, vocation. He then, understandably, starts to question God - in the famous verse: "Brace yourself like a man. I will question, and you shall answer." God then replies with the opening text of The Tree of Life: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth? When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" In other words, "how can you possibly understand my plan? You're just a tiny infinitesimal part of my vast creation." He then goes on to take Job on a journey through the cosmos, like Malick does with this film.

Other than the opening text, there are other hints to this, like the protagonist's name being Jack O'Brian - JOB, or the fact that Job is mentioned by the priest in the film. So i'm fairly confident that the Job interpretation is correct.

"The nuns taught us there were two ways through life: the way of nature, and the way of grace."

Malick also deals with the philosophical distinction between Gnosticism (the spiritual view of life) and materialism (the scientific view of life). The mostly silent protagonist played by Sean Penn is caught between the two ways of life, and sees that distinction personified in his two parents when reminiscing on his childhood.

The Tree of Life isn't just the most visually spectacular film since 2001, it's also the most daring and original. It justifies every superlative used to describe it, and is one of the very few films capable of living up to the adjective of "masterpiece."

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

You'll Either Love it Or Hate It

Author: The-Ambassador from United States
11 April 2015

And that's okay. Malick isn't for everyone. There is a rare dichotomous paradigm that exists wherein some things can be incredibly brilliant and yet not necessarily inspire people to experience it multiple times. Such is the case w many of Terrence Malck's films. Tree Of Life especially so. On the one hand it is an exceptional piece of filmmaking that perfectly highlights an artist at his peak. On the other hand it is a slow moving brooding and poetic work of art that simply doesn't work as well as entertainment as it does a reflection of human life. Simply put if you're looking to be entertained, don't enter here. But if you're an intellectual looking to be inspired or amazed then you will always remember this indisputable masterpiece. It really is that simple. In that this film acts as a natural dividing line between the masses and the more cerebrally focused. The former despise this film -- because they mistakenly thought they were going to see a "movie"; and the latter find it breathtakingly brilliant and beautiful. I can easily float between both worlds, simultaneously appreciating this magnificent work of art AND completely understanding how mind numbing and boring it can be if you're looking to be entertained. Therein lies the rub: it all depends on what you're in the mood for.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Great movie!

Author: Dhyana D
24 October 2014

This is a deep, intense movie that can make you blossom inside with joy and at the same time reopen old forgotten sores. It's been a long time since I saw such a movie and I totally enjoyed it. Hope you do too.

Essentially, the movie is about:

1. The personal, intimate relationship with The Creator. Sometimes we estrange ourselves from God, following an illusory personal success, other times we get back to Him, looking for an answer for the things that happen to us and help.

As viewers, we have access to the main characters most intimate place, where we witness their inner talk with God.

2. The creation of life. The great mystery of how life appears and the great mystery of how it ends. And about the sacred mysterious order by which everything takes place.

3. Relationships, family and childhood. The wounds we suffer during childhood shape our personality and mark us for life. It is in the depth of our own being that we can find the power to forgive and love unconditionally, eternally.

4. The ephemeral and superficial nature of personal feelings as opposed to the eternity and greatness of life itself.

This is a review that I wrote for my blog ( ) but I wanted people who check IMDb's ratings & reviews to have access to a positive view also. Because this movie is great. I believe all negative commentaries are but poor understandings of the topic.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

ambitious, knockout film

Author: leslie gardner from United Kingdom
6 May 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

like others attempting to articulate a response, it's hard to say what it's about - i will just say, however, that it weaves personal and intimate in with global and eternal time scales in a very convincing way - it also could not be done in any other way except in cinema. for me, it feels like poem cinema - a new category?? we all (as human beings) share deep attachments to mother - either negative or positive; similarly to dad - and this applies to both male or female (I'd have liked more on that apart from little boy's berating her, saying that she does not stand up their father_- and, like the boys in the family, we have envies and ambivalent feelings much of the time about any sibs we have.

like Job, too, 'god's' answer to what he thinks of us is in creation itself, the majestic forward drive of it - meanings we try to impose sometimes work - but not always. there is nothing we do right or wrong - event is acausal.

a stunning event of a film, and you will walk away feeling just like that - stunned. would i watch it a second time? well, i guess not right away - it did dawdle ... but i would out of love for it however sometime in future, and i'd also recommend it

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Work of Art

Author: Bressonist
24 April 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Today I've watched Terrence Malick's the "The Tree of Life" for the second time. The first time was almost three years ago and it was on the big screen during the opening week. Never was I more excited to re-watch a film. Not only because I wanted to be transferred back in time and spend two hours being a part of small town nostalgia in the 50's rural east Texas. I wished to experience art without a need to leave the realm of my home. There are few filmmakers who can offer you this and most of them are the long gone European masters with exception of the brilliant American artists such as Ford, Scorsese, D.W. Griffith (yes), Lumet, Kubrick and of course the man himself, Terrence Malick.

"The Tree of Life" is the essential art film and in that essence it is aimed for a patient niche audience and certainly not for the Hollywood blockbuster, average Joe moviegoers. And what an irony that is for Malick depicts the everyday American family in the aftermath of the WWII. I am not writing this review to defend this picture from criticism, I'm just here to show my admiration for the most quaint work of art in the world of cinema since Bergman's "Persona".

And for the actors. Brad Pitt's most realistic performance since "Se7en". He is top-notch as the authoritarian (but loving) patriarch and Jessica Chastain as his wife who is just as shy as sore eyes. Beautiful and mesmerizing, like an angel from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, she stands for the unconditional love, Grace. The opening sequences reminded me of an another masterpiece, Wender's "Wings of Desire". The story of how Jack lost his God and became more like his father is one of the strongest ever made on the subject even though it is only captured in short, poetic shots.

But Terrence Malick is trying - and trying, as it says in the song - to get together everyday and eternity, heaven and earth, death and life. He hasn't done so many films in the forty year career since the accomplished debut "Badlands" from 1973. Maybe he does not think he's going to cope with another one. In "The tree of life" he has, in any case, accomplished about everything.¨

On the question if Malick is trying to send us a politically incorrect massage of religion as something positive, I'll just finish this review with: "I give him to you. I give you my son."

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