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
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.
Terence Malick's existential and experimental drama is truly something special. When I first started watching the film, I was trying to figure out what Malick was aiming to portray due to the film's somewhat convoluted structure, but towards the end, I took in every aspect of the film, the themes of family, of existence, of life in general. Many see this as a hit-and-miss film, but unless you truly focus your attention, you'll miss the point it's trying to make. Is it pretentious? Indeed, but it's equally an amazing picture.
We sit for 2 hours and follow Jack, a young child growing up in a dysfunctional house with Brad Pitt playing (extremely well) his strict and overwhelming father in the 1950s. The story feels inspired by the likes of '2001: A Space Odyssey' and the art-house feel of Von Trier, but despite this, 'The Tree of Life' has its own unique and bold style that works well in creating a haunting and emotional visual treat, accompanied with fantastic performances from Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain and stunning cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki. 'The Tree of Life' is a bold and epic exercise from Malick that acts as a commentary on our society, a truly rewarding view.
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