DVD Review: The Tree of Life

Did I miss something?

The movie I just watched is nothing like I thought it would be. Was Malick doing his best impression of Lars Von Trier?

Jack as an adult is played by Sean Penn. He's questioning the meaning of life and faith as an adult. His brother R.L died when he was 19 (we don't know how, we can just assume.) Jack reminisces about his childhood in Texas. His father, played by Brad Pitt is strict, his mother, played by Jessica Chastain is ethereal and meek. He thinks of the time spent with his two brothers. The lessons they learned, the things they did, both good and bad. All of this is littered with shots of oceans, stars, dinosaurs, (yep) and other things that are supposed to represent how God created the world we live in. It reminded me of something I might find on Deviantart.com.

Malick never shoots his actors straight on. The camera is always looking up, looking to the side, or behind them. The cast talk as if they are in a dream, they walk, and walk, and walk while mumbling what's going on in their minds. This works for a few scenes, then grows old. The shots of special effects made the film feel twice as long as it really was. Sean Penn stated in an interview that the movie that Malick put together on screen was not at all like the script he read, he said the emotion wasn't there. I completely understand where he is coming from. On paper, I bet this story was fantastic, it had all the makings to be a great coming of age story about a family that is halted by tragedy, but the way our director chose to edit it completely ruined whatever heart this film had. The ending in particular frustrated me. If Malick had chosen to shoot the film like a normal drama, the ending would've been beautiful and meaningful. Since the entire movie was filmed that way, it didn't feel special at all.

What a shame.

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "The nuns taught us there were two ways through life - the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow."  - Mrs. O'Brien (Jessican Chastain)


  1. Totally agree. I watched this a few weeks ago and wrote up a similarly themed review wishing that the film had been structured differently. It does have potential to be good but it's all buried in the editing. It doesn't make me think of Von Trier at all though, he's actually concerned with storytelling where Malick is focused solely on his personal goals. In any case what could have been a really emotional, hard-hitting film is just lost in pretense. Great write-up!

  2. agreed!!! the story was muddied by a ridiculous amount of needless visuals and special effects.

  3. Never before have I seen a film that captures life. That's a huge concept with a range of implications. It's a nearly impossible endeavor for any filmmaker. However, Terrence Malick has proven me wrong. Malick's The Tree of Life does the impossible in a grand way. From grappling with the meaning and scope of life to questioning the purpose of faith, Malick covers a broad array of topics. The Tree of Life is an ambitious, groundbreaking film that may be paving the way for the next generation of bold filmmakers. For more of my thoughts on Tree of Life, check out my review on Sobriety Test Movie Reviews at http://bit.ly/r6BD1G


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