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
As was the case with James Horner's music for The New World (2005), much of the music composed Alexandre Desplat never made it to the final cut of this film. Even though he is credited as composer, only a few minutes of his music are heard in the film. See more »
Mrs. O'Brien's dish-washing liquid comes in a clear plastic container, which wasn't invented until after the '50s. See more »
[in a whisper]
Brother. Mother. It was they who led me to your door.
[choir singing dirge]
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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.
The Tree of Life presents an impressionist story of an American Midwestern family in the 1950s, which follows the vital course of the eldest son, Jack O'Brien by his formative growing-up period with his parents, and his two younger brothers, R.L. and Steve through the innocence of childhood until the disappointment of his mature years, in his attempt to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father. Jack finds himself lost in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning faith.
It is a rumination of life itself in the visage of human existence. A filmic discourse through the origin the universe, the birth and grow of life on Earth, in which an eternal flash-forward of the couple's grown-up son infiltrates surreptitiously in a visual and spiritual epic deeply compromised to resonate with pertinent questions full of intricate profundity.
The film is presented into two differentiated parts, the first one begins with journey through the cosmos, where Malick proposes a tour full of opulent images and admirable beauty. It is an introductory part to what comes next, a way to take us and prepare for the history of the family itself, which is already the second part of the film, and in which we can already notice a clear symbolism of what is relevant.
Malick's unconventional storytelling, poetic conception of the story and permanent use of hand held camera breeds special intimacy featured on past contemplative works like The Thin Red Line. As ambitious as it seems, the film succeeds to reach the viewers most profound sensibilities with powerful and etherial imagery of existence.
The Tree of Life is a remarkable and honest experience that subtly asks a lost soul of the modern world for the meaning of life. It's possibly one the best movies ever made, if not the best, as Terrence Malick proves to possess the key of a room few other directors have opened before, the key to the true nature of film.
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