The story of a family in Waco, Texas in 1956. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence and struggles with his parents' conflicting teachings.

Director:

Terrence Malick

Writer:

Terrence Malick
Popularity
1,705 ( 263)
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 116 wins & 125 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Brad Pitt ... Mr. O'Brien
Sean Penn ... Jack
Jessica Chastain ... Mrs. O'Brien
Hunter McCracken ... Young Jack
Laramie Eppler Laramie Eppler ... R.L.
Tye Sheridan ... Steve
Fiona Shaw ... Grandmother
Jessica Fuselier Jessica Fuselier ... Guide
Nicolas Gonda ... Mr. Reynolds
Will Wallace ... Architect
Kelly Koonce Kelly Koonce ... Father Haynes
Bryce Boudoin Bryce Boudoin ... Robert
Jimmy Donaldson Jimmy Donaldson ... Jimmy
Kameron Vaughn Kameron Vaughn ... Cayler
Cole Cockburn Cole Cockburn ... Harry Bates
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Storyline

The impressionistic story of a Texas family in the 1950s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Fantasy

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some thematic material | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Although multiple classical/orchestral pieces of music by Brahms, Mahler, Gorecki, Smetana, Holst, and other well-known composers are heard very prominently throughout the movie (sometimes even in their entirety, which is unusual for a film score), the soundtrack album released for this movie contains only the parts of the score written for the movie by Alexandre Desplat. See more »

Goofs

When Mr. O'Brien receives the terrible news at the beginning of the movie by phone, the camera and camera operator are reflected in the handset. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Jack: [in a whisper] Brother. Mother. It was they who led me to your door.
[choir singing dirge]
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Crazy Credits

There are no opening credits. See more »

Alternate Versions

In September 2018, Criterion Collection released the 189-minute extended version, which restores several vignettes and additional scenes. The additions are as follows:
  • When Mrs. O'Brien learns of R.L's death in Vietnam, there are more shots of her in the bed. After that, a neighbor's boy brings over some food.
  • There are additional shots of adult Jack walking around the office building including walking into a masked ball.
  • Adult Jack visits the museum. He is always accompanied by a woman, while he seems to lose himself more and more in the past.
  • There is an additional montage of adult Jack encountering shady characters before it ends of him sitting in the airplane in panic.
  • Steve and R.L look at the chicks that have fallen off from their nest.
  • An additional vignette of Jack and his mother, which establishes the insight of his activities including lassoing and weeding. Dad then checks on Steve whether if he has finished.
  • In the dining scene after that, Mr. O'Brien drinks from a bottle of Tabasco.
  • Mr. O'Brien learns of a mishap that befell his father.
  • Jack talks to the other boys about his experience with the three-legged dog while the children played with it.
  • R.L tells his mother that she's not old yet, then while mixing she accidentally mixes with her hand. Jack goes out to the lawn with his father while Mother watches from the inside longer.
  • The Uncle Roy (Mrs. O'Brien's brother) vignette is put back and his presence excites and makes the three boys happy. However Mr. O'Brien is not happy about his brother-in-law and unceremoniously kicks him out of the house because he makes the boys turn away from him. (Note: This is one of the two longest restored sequences)
  • Another vignette has Jack and his friend ravaging the latter's house. It is explained this was done in anger he was often mistreated and locked up by his father (an appearance by Ben Chaplin) - this sets up Jack's subsequent change of behavior. Next, a violent tornado storm happens whose devastation can be seen in retrospect. (Note: This is one of the two longest restored sequences)
  • Jack and his friends hurt other animals and even destroying other people's property.
  • When Jack goes upstairs, he stares at the bird cage briefly before continues through the floor until he reaches a room that catches his interest.
  • Jack creates more problems, even in school and even annoys R.L. This eventually leads to his mother having to have conversations with some of the schoolteachers, and she slowly begins to understand where Jack is heading.
  • When Mr. O'Brien returns, he has a conversation with Jack, aware of his behavior and describes his feelings of his sons. He reveals that he had hepatitis during his work trip in China. He then has a short trip to the lake.
  • Jack's parents eventually decided to put Jack to a boarding school and his mother explains to him her decision to do so. This somehow has him finding his inner peace in the subsequent scenes in the new school. It also made R.L happy on his own side too. In an additional short scene, his parents had one more moment of time together at the lakeside.
  • Several additional shots were added when Jack is heading towards the beach, which includes a girl walking among the ruin, people coming out from a building into the open space and more shots of anxious children. Later he is seen walking back to his house.
  • The closing credits includes additional cast members who only appeared in the new cut.
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Connections

Referenced in Final de partida: Los premios Óscar (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

Piano Sonata No.16 in C Major K. 545
Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performed by Jim Lynch
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User Reviews

Sheesh... skip all the other reviews. Just read this.
3 July 2011 | by rooprectSee all my reviews

I've just wasted my time reading 20 IMDb reviews for "Tree of Life", both love-its and hate-its. They might as well be telling you how they feel about the colour blue. Subjective, subjective, subjective.

So let's try something different. I'm not going to tell you whether I loved or hated this movie. I'm just going to tell you what to expect. Without either praising or disparaging this film, I'd describe it as being a mix of Fellini, Kubrick, IMAX and "Stand by Me".

This film is presented in 4 distinct acts, each lasting between 30-45 mins. The acts are very disjoint, and although they are woven together by common thematic elements, the experience can be very disorienting. The director seemed to pattern this film after Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" with its 4 contrasting sections.

Act 1: Setting. The film begins with a peek into the life of a 1950s American family that suffers a tragedy. It leaps forward and back in time, setting up the individual characters and their roles in the drama. Though presented in a very fragmented way, this part should be easy enough to follow.

Act 2: Tone. The next sequence, lasting about 30 minutes, is a very impressionistic journey through space, time and evolution. Be prepared. There may be a few voice-overs, but otherwise it's completely without dialogue, actors or events. The best way to describe it is to say it's like an IMAX film with the narration turned off. It's somewhat reminiscent of the "acid trip sequence" at the end of "2001".

Act 3: Plot. After that, we return to the 1950s. This 3rd sequence makes up the body of this film. Having established the setting & tone, the director gives us a story (more or less). It's presented in a series of vignettes focusing mostly on the love-hate relationship between a boy and his father. This mirrors the love-hate relationship that each character has with goodness. Both the father & son are jerks struggling to become good, each in his own way. This portion of the film reminded me of a dark, disturbing version of "Stand By Me".

Act 4: Conclusion. We return to another impressionistic sequence, this time including the main characters and short bits of dialogue & voice-overs. To some of the audience it may give closure & satisfaction. To others, it may just plain suck.

For the sake of presenting an objective review, I'll withhold my own opinion. But I did want to mention some of the reactions I observed in the theater and in the parking lot afterwards. In an audience of about 100, I saw 4 people walk out. (Well, 5, but I think that guy just spilled lemonade on himself.) Most of the audience seemed attentive, but I did hear a lot of yawns and uncomfortable fidgeting. When the end credits came up there was dead silence as everyone filed out. It was pretty uncomfortable. In the parking lot there was a man who hated the movie so much I feared for my life. Seriously, this guy was about to plow his car through a storefront. Others praised the film's technical merits and cinematography but remained lukewarm, if not mostly negative, with their overall impression. Several people were intent on discussing the films philosophical merits, but this only infuriated the angry guy, so everyone just went home.

If I were to compare this to other films/directors, I'd say it's very Tarkovsky-like (Stalker, Mirror, etc). As I mentioned above, it's also much like Kubrick's "2001"--if you were to strip out the suspenseful parts about Hal and the Discovery. Perhaps it's also a bit like Wim Wenders' "Paris Texas" in that it wanders around a lot before coming to its destination.


1,357 of 1,490 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

17 May 2011 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

The Tree of Life See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$32,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$372,920, 29 May 2011

Gross USA:

$13,303,319

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$58,409,247
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (Extended Cut)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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