The Tree of Life

It’s my birthday and this movie sucked a year off my life so I feel 24 instead of 23. Regardless I’ll make the review brief so you don’t have to suffer like I did while watching Terrence Malick’s epic….ly boring The Tree of Life.


I could inundate you with flowery, symbol-laden descriptions of the film’s overarching themes about how our lives are mere specks on the vast timeline of our Mother Earth and how everything since that instant of creation is pushed to irrelevancy by our diminished impact on the past, present and future of our planet, but I won’t. The film is about a family in the 1950s, particularly the father (Brad Pitt) and Jack (young: Hunter McCracken; old: Sean Penn).

Great casting here by the way.

I freely admit I watched this in its entirety simply because I wanted to see what garners critical acclaim these days. My verdict: I have no idea what garners critical acclaim these days. The first day…I mean hour of the film is the type of clip that is reserved for the side room of a museum where art enthusiasts “ooh” and “aah” at something non-enthusiasts can’t see due to closed eyelids. Like you’ve probably heard, there is indeed an eighteen minute scene of Earth’s creation up until the dinosaurs. I’d suggest watching the Planet Earth series instead.

If you are capable of making it beyond the first hour, there is actually a movie here. We see a family dynamic that has all but died out in modern times. The extremely strict father forcing his sons into military-like discipline while the mother looks on as a spectator more than a partner. Yet, since the film is about the growth of young children, I still got the sense that visiting my niece and nephew would be immensely more interesting because it is incredibly boring to watch child growth on-screen – I know, I’m a broken record but so is the damn film.

Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give SOME credit to Malick and his crew. He has clearly created something that works on a different level and has some message that can only be reached with a heightened intellect…or LSD. The cinematography is actually worth the Oscar nomination, but that, along with a generally high production quality, is the only positive.

Some will say you need to let a film like this simmer and pick away at your subconscious until it reveals a life-altering revelation. I call shenanigans. Everyone whispers or mumbles. There are at least nine logical endings that make the film stubborn to the point of frustration in its inability to simply die. By the end, if you make it, you’ll feel proud that you finished it, but also really, really angry you wasted over two hours.

*In the event that you liked this movie, please explain why in the comments. I want to know.

    • MrMcBam
    • May 22nd, 2012

    Yeah, let’s just say I disagree with nearly everything you said. I realize it’s a love-or-hate film, but whenever I see people complaining about the narrative, I’m just a tad annoyed by it. In an age where we get nothing but straight-forward, cookie-cutter films, this approach is refreshing. As for the first forty minutes of the film, you’re watching the creation of the universe. The fact there was no CGI (with the exception of the dinosaurs, of course) is a mind-blowing achievement.

    • But if you really think about it, the creation of the universe requires CGI. We got to see some of the beauty of our planet, which was great and well-captured, but not everything shown has been around forever. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

      I am more than willing to learn why people love this film. What about the narrative did you like?

        • MrMcBam
        • May 22nd, 2012

        I think that statement proves false after seeing The Tree of Life.

        I just appreciated its fragmented structure. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film that accurately depicts the thrust from childhood to adolescence as well as The Tree of Life. It wouldn’t have worked it the narrative was as straight-forward as every other film that gets spewed out.

        Ha, it didn’t bother me.. that much. I’m used to the negative reactions.

    • Thanks for reading though since I’m sure your blood was boiling at each paragraph! I promise not every review is like this one

  1. This seems to be a love it or hate it film. I’m in the Loved It camp. One of my favorites from last year.

    I think the lack of a congruent narrative really throws people.

    • That’s really interesting because I’ve found you and I (mostly) agree on films. You should do a review. I’m very curious to hear the Loved It argument because while watching it I could tell it was very well done; the message just missed for me.

      • That’s part of the beauty of the film, the message is really what you make it to be. The film is about how insignificant our most significant life events really are.

        I’ll likely watch the film again this year, so I can do a more detailed outline of my thoughts.

  2. Wow, I have never heard such a negative review of this movie. I was interested to see this, and I still am. But I will keep your points on mind. Great review none the less.

    • Haha Ok I MAY have been a little overzealous in my disdain, but it kept becoming more and more difficult to enjoy. Lemme know what you think when you see it.

  3. A friend of mine walked out of this flick, but got dragged back a second time and loved it. Maybe it’s a frame of mind thing. I never saw it myself so I can’t really say.
    Also, happy birthday.

    • Thanks! It was definitely one of those experiences where I was watching it knowing I should have been getting more out of it, but just couldn’t. Maybe some day down the road I’ll give it another shot.

    • mithil293
    • May 16th, 2012

    This is on my DVD list … i guess i’ll have to alter it now. #pitfan

    • If you had interest in seeing it, I would still suggest giving it a try. Just know what you’re getting yourself into.

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