Movie Review: Tree of Life

Posted: June 10, 2011 in movie reviews, movies
Tags: , , , ,

How do I describe Tree Of Life? That is the question. Well, there are dinosaurs, adorable baby lips, frogs flying into space, creepy whispering, an overbearing father, and volcanoes. But, what does it all mean? Dear Terrence Malick, What the hell did I just watch? Sincerely, Me.

Tree of Life

Starring: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn.

The Premise: (As far as I can tell…) Adult Jack (Sean Penn) learns about the death of one of his younger brothers and he reflects back on his life with his family, particular his tough father (Brad Pitt) and mother (Jessica Chastain) as well as the meaning of life and death. Oh, and there are some dinosaurs. There’s more detailed description of the plot at Wikipedia, even though half of what it describes I don’t remember actually being in the film.


My Review:  It’s hard to describe how I feel about this movie, but I will try and put it into words as best I can. This movie definitely confused me, and challenged me, and made me think. It wasn’t a bad movie, by any means, even if I didn’t always get what was going on.

The camera work was phenomenal. Every single shot in this movie is deliberate and beautiful. Every shot is a money shot.

Also great was the acting. Hunter McCracken (Young Jack) and Brad Pitt (Jack’s Father) were amazing in this movie, I have to admit. Watching the three young boys grow up felt very sentimental and nostalgic. These kids had wonder and curiosity and I really felt how precious they were to their parents. And Malick managed to find the most beautiful babies to photograph.Brad Pitt as the father was wonderfully subtle. Yes, the father was overbearing, and mean, and sometimes cruel, but you still managed to feel for the dude. He loved his sons, and tried to teach them values, and he fought to provide for them. I’m not saying I’d want the dude as a father, or that his methods were right, but I was able to see both sides. He wasn’t a villain in the least.

Yes a lot of things didn’t make sense. Yes there was creepy whispering. Yes, Sean Penn gets a starring credit when he’s in the 2 hours and 18 minute long movie for about 4 minutes. Yes, there was a half hour period of time where no actors were on screen just bursts of sunlight, and classical music playing in the background that made me doze off a bit. But one thing’s for sure the film was well acted, beautiful, could be interpreted different ways, and leaves a lot up for debate, and seriously, isn’t that what filmmaking is about?

I think the ultimate question was asked by my friend, Kit:  “Why did that dinosaur step on that other dinosaur’s face?”


Rating: 3 stars. 

  1. Joseph says:

    ok, here’s my take on why the dinosaur stepping on the other dinosaur’s head was included. The element of timelessness and evolution is an intricate part of the story. The qualities of domination, control & submission are (still) part of the eternal Tree of Life equation. And yes, many of us do endlessly carry forward a ‘a brute reptilian brain’, passed from father to son. Is this a necessary part of the story of our survival and ‘progress’ as humans? The other side of the equation is indeed the love, compassion, acceptance, nurturing and awareness of the mother. Terrence Malik is asking us to question our motives. Interesting that the dominant carnivorous dinosaur stepped on the (herbivorous?) dinosaur ‘just because’. I think we were all expecting he (she?) would ‘take a bite’, but instead he just pranced off into the distance. Does this film challenge us to question what it means to be ‘Godlike’ vs. ‘brute lower instinctive animals.” In light of current events (lust for power, I-me-mine, hoarding resources, war, etc.), maybe it’s finally time, yes?

  2. loganburd says:

    I totally agree about the confusion, why did the dinosaur step on the other dinosaur’s face?!? I admit, it was cute when the smaller dino raised his head slightly, only for it to be gently pushed down again, but still. Great review, I love when people have the same thoughts as myself. You should check out my review of the film, and subscribe while you’re there!

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