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The Tree of Life (2011)

PG-13 | | Drama, Fantasy | 17 May 2011 (France)
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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
2,186 ( 283)
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 112 wins & 117 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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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

17 May 2011 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

El árbol de la vida See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$32,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$372,920, 27 May 2011, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$13,303,319, 23 October 2011

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$54,303,319, 27 October 2011
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (Extended Cut)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In August 2011, Sean Penn gave an interview to the French publication "Le Figaro" in which he was very critical of the movie and Terrence Malick's direction. Penn said "I didn't at all find on the screen the emotion of the script, which is the most magnificent one that I've ever read. A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact. Frankly, I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing there and what I was supposed to add in that context. What's more, Terry himself never managed to explain it to me clearly." See more »

Goofs

When young Jack enters the neighbor's house to snoop, there is a brief glimpse of a tuned wind chime which is heard sounding. Tuned wind chimes didn't exist in the 1950s; there were only the un-tuned, jangly type (and very few of those in middle-class Texas homes). 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

An extended 189 minute version was released on Blu-Ray and DVD by the Criterion Collection in September 2018. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Chelsea Lately: Episode #6.30 (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

Cosmic Beam Take 5
Written and Performed by Francesco Lupica
Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
The Moments of Existence in The TREE OF LIFE
24 February 2012 | by seaview1See all my reviews

The Tree of Life is the latest film by reclusive director Terrence Malick (Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line) whose previous films displayed a simple narrative abetted by haunting imagery. This film takes a step further by telling its story in grand strokes of imagery. Though its technique may lead some to wonder the point of this exercise and dismiss it as confusing, others will hail it an ambitious masterwork. Let the viewer beware.

One family deals with a personal loss as it ponders the meaning of life through the point of view of its oldest son (Sean Penn), now an adult in the business world. Celestial forces of nature signal the very creation and existence of the universe and provide a majestic background to the birth and evolution of life on earth. We witness the beginnings of an American family from the Midwest in mid-twentieth century. Led by a stern, proud father (Brad Pitt), and a doting mother (Jessica Chastain), three sons experience the joys and pains of growing up. Through a rapid series of short scenes, this tapestry of sounds and images forms a mosaic of life's precious moments. All the while a voice asks the great questions of life and God.

Certainly the most ambitious film in the enigmatic director's career, it is also the most challenging. This is pure cinema, and it is remarkable how the film is able to communicate visually albeit without much in the way of lengthy dialogue. These fragments of life almost seem surreal as if from a Fellini film. In a way it is kind of an experimental film on a grand scale. It seems to ask, 'what is the purpose of existence amid great loss'? (Despite being a very spiritual film, creationists might not like the premise of some of the scenes that strongly suggest an evolutionary development of life on earth.)

Those who are able to decipher the abstract nature of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey will likely have a clue on how to access the style and meaning of this film. Indeed, some of the impressive visuals were created by Douglas Trumbull (Blade Runner) who did the 2001 special visual effects and helped to realize Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki has captured some stunning visuals of landscapes and life that are at times overwhelming in their beauty. The musical score alternates between classical and operatic pieces although one almost expects a minimalist, Philip Glass-type score to pop up.

There are many unanswered questions. Which brother died and how? And what is the background of the oldest brother as adult? How has the father changed since the loss of his son and how does this affect the family? As much as the oldest son asks for answers, we want more information and must settle for pieces from a larger puzzle.

The film serves as a search for meaning and hope amid the vastness of existence. As we see the father teach his sons about manners, chores, music, fighting, and death, we may see something in our own common, shared experiences. Life is portrayed as a series of events that sometimes blur over time.

This exploration of the meaning of life may prove to be too abstract and a turn off for some, but to those who are open to a visual experience unlike any other, it may prove to be a fascinating exercise in pure cinema. Kubrick would be proud.


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