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The Tree of Life

A movie directed by Terrence Malick

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The Tree of Life: On Second Thought

  • Oct 15, 2011


Written and Directed by Terrence Malick

Starring Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn

Mrs. O'Brien: You'll be grown before that tree is grown.


Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE is the most polarizing film I’ve seen in ages. It was widely reported that plenty of patrons walked out and angrily demanded their money back while just as many fans vehemently defended it, proclaiming the film a modern masterpiece. In fact, this pattern began at the Cannes film festival, where the film made its debut, when half the audience took its feet in ovation while the rest booed and hissed loudly. To be fair, Cannes audiences do tend to err on the dramatic side of things but this divide was very real. No word of a lie, I hold THE TREE OF LIFE personally responsible, at least in some small part, for actually ruining a very close friendship of mine. It doesn’t matter which side of the line you fall on though; what matters is that for those who see it, the reaction it inspires is a strong one.


All I knew after seeing THE TREE OF LIFE in theatres was that I would need to see it again to truly form a full opinion of it. I knew that seeing it again would either leave me feeling more detached from it or more involved in it. When I saw the film with an audience, I was surprised and moved by how quiet and attentive everyone was. The film demands your attention and it certainly had it in that room. A few people left, including the couple sitting in front of me. (I knew when they sat down that it was only a matter of when.) At the time, my original review praised the film’s aesthetics, calling them nothing short of genius, but I also felt the film came across as somewhat self-important, as if Malick portended to know something we didn’t. 


After seeing the film again, in stunning high definition in my living room, I feel as though I have seen THE TREE OF LIFE in a whole other light. The film is an odyssey of sorts, one that the viewer must choose to embark upon freely in order to enjoy. At two hours and eighteen minutes, the film is not particularly long but it can feel that way at times because it requires such delicate contemplation on the viewer’s part, as well as some very focused observation. It’s almost meditative. If you can find that state of balance and calm that Malick mysteriously manifests on film though, the experience itself can be transcendent. Every frame of this film is magnificent, bursting off the screen with beauty like you’ve never seen, rendering the action taking place superfluous most of the time.


There is no succinct plot in THE TREE OF LIFE. Having one would almost defeat the point, or at least the new point I’ve taken away from the film anyway. I feel more now as though Malick is not telling us what he thinks he knows about life but rather asking us to see life as the splendid miracle it is, to appreciate it fully and to understand that not only could it disappear in an instant but that one day it will. And so instead of story, Malick gives us random moments, some mundane, some meaningful. Moments are what make up our lives and from these moments, spring the stories we create in our minds. We invite shame and suffering into our homes and into our bodies when we don’t need to. Our lives are but blinks of an eye and all that we should see in that instant is love.

Thanks for reading.
LUNCH rating is out of 10.

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November 22, 2011
Great write up
October 16, 2011
a-hah!  Great movie! What is your favorite Malick film so far?
October 16, 2011
Well, actually, I saw this in theatres and this review is my second one. I don't usually do this but this film certainly warrants it. I definitely prefer Badlands of all his films. Also thoroughly enjoyed Days of Heaven. Need to watch The Thin Red Line again and I've never seen The New World. How about you?
October 16, 2011
Yeah, I understand, this had a lot of things going for it (worth a 2nd write up) and I need to re-watch it one of these days. Thin Red Line is my favorite so far, but I need to see BADLANDS (only full-length film of Malick's I missed). I seem to associate him with AMAZING GRACE though he wasn't the director there...
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review by . June 05, 2011
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Every New Beginning is Some Other Beginning's End....
When I got out of the theaters for Terrence Malick‘s “The Tree of Life“, every viewer was asked to put their opinion on a piece of paper as to determine audience reaction. It is a film that is very different. Terrence Malick’s writing and direction turns so many components, angles and layers that to appreciate it one either has to be used to a style of non-linear, unconventional storytelling and/or have a profound appreciation for vague, poetic voice-over to tell its …
review by . July 11, 2011
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Evolution vs Eternity: An Odyssey & A Galaxy
The Tree of Life is a good movie. It is a deep one too. It asks many questions and provide no distinctive answers that matter to the world at large except those of our very own. It is also a movie that is a tad too long for many audiences, imho.      The Tree of Life is a movie for many adults but definitely not for children, despite the fact that half its cast is made up of children. When children are not matured enough, asking those very questions asked by the movie can present …
review by . December 10, 2011
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**** out of ****    It's but once every few years - and sometimes every few decades - that the great Terrence Malick unleashes another one of his bold, bright, and beautiful cinematic visions onto the world. He unveils each project with great confidence; an attitude that could come off as self-absorbed, pretentious, and indulgent; while others find plenty to admire about the man. He's a quiet fellow, and enjoys keeping to himself; most likely an avid observer of nature, human …
review by . May 26, 2011
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The Big Bang...Creation...Evolution...God...Religion...Life...Death...Family...These are the themes that Terrence Malick addresses in his brilliant new film, 'The Tree Of Life'.       In my humble opinion, this is one of the most original films in cinematic history.  It is also a film that will divide people...Some will absolutely hate it, some will be angered by it and some like myself, will absolutely love it.           …
review by . February 14, 2012
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   You may ask yourself why a so late review on The Tree of Life. Aside from some personal matters I have to say that when I had the chance to write it I felt like there's so many things to write about this movie and that a shorter review will not be a fair exposition. Now, someone reminded me that I still have not written any review for this film and I was shocked to realize it so I instantly grabbed my pen and started to scratch my paper.      How do you start …
review by . June 19, 2011
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THE TREE OF LIFE   Written and Directed by Terrence Malick   Starring Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn       Mrs. O’Brien: You’ll be grown before that tree is tall.       THE TREE OF LIFE is a true film experience. Writer/Director, Terrence Malick’s latest opus is an assault of the best kind on your eyes, your ears and your mind. It is mesmerizing from the moment it begins with a pattern of dancing waves …
review by . June 04, 2011
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Star Rating:         Like a finely orchestrated piece of music, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is a film that challenges the power of description. It is, paradoxically, his most simple and most challenging work; rather than appeal to the logical desires of the mind – discernable plot, archetypal characters, a clear beginning, middle and end – he relies heavily on visual symbolism, creative editing, and meditative dialogue, most of which is internal. …
Quick Tip by . January 03, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
I decided after 4 attempts not to try to review the movie, it's too overwhelming in both good and bad ways to stay a manageable review. I do have to say it is similar in structure to 2001 and the other Malick movies: The New Worls and The Thin Red Line. And as an amateur photographer I can say that the movie has photographers in mind more than casual movie-goers expecting an exciting plot.
Quick Tip by . July 11, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
It is what each of us takes away that makes it a powerful film. The highest evolution about humans and its relevance to the planet are being portrayed and yet it also hints of the end. Did I enjoy it?      Yes. But, I wish it's slightly shorter ;-) Sensory overload & emotionally explosive!        
About the reviewer
Joseph Belanger ()
Ranked #8
Hello Lunchers. I am a thirty-something guy making his way in Toronto. I am a banker by day and a film critic the rest of the time. Sensitive, sharp and sarcastic are just a few words that start with … more
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About this movie


The Tree of Life is a 2011 American drama film written and directed by Terrence Malick, and starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain. The film premiered in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and won the Palme d'Or.
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Director: Terrence Malick
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi
Release Date: 27 May 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Terrence Malick
Runtime: 138 minutes
Studio: Chockstone Pictures, Cottonwood Pictures, Plan B Entertainment
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