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The Tree of Life

A movie directed by Terrence Malick

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Malick's Meaning of Life

  • Jun 19, 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 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 of colored light flowing in the center of a black screen. Whispers can be heard in the distance, birds too, seagulls maybe. It is a total mystery what lies ahead but you can feel its weight, its magnitude, its inevitable magnificence. THE TREE OF LIFE is a journey, one with remarkable richness in every frame. When the journey ends though, its insight isn’t as revelatory as its grandness suggests it should be.
Malick has famously been tinkering and toiling over THE TREE OF LIFE for more than two years now. And while his hyper-perfectionism might drive the man himself to the brink of potential madness, it has once again served to create a film so fluid and inviting that I felt as though I was floating through space and time along with it. Despite its subject matter, which I will get into shortly, THE TREE OF LIFE has an airy quality to it. Alexandre Desplat’s (THE KING’S SPEECH) piano and string score carries you effortlessly into the sky on the wind, allowing you to look down upon Emmanuel Lubezki’s (CHILDREN OF MEN) breathtaking cinematography and just gaze longingly at its immense beauty. The film is then cut together in non-linear sequence so seamlessly that it never seems to matter at all just how little it all comes together at times.
Malick’s screenplay is a vast contemplation on life, its meanings and lack there of. It may be perhaps a tad bit too vast though. Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien (Brad Pitt and the captivating Jessica Chastain) have just lost one of their three sons at the age of 19. Their grief and regrets run so deep that they transcend time, affecting not only the present but the future of their remaining children as well. As an adult, their son, Jack O’Brien (Sean Penn), has never gotten over the loss of his brother, let alone the drastically different views his parents instilled on him. Malick seems to be musing on the continuity of issues and pain as passed down from generation to generation, how one moment in time can affect all the others to varying degrees. To really drive his point home hard, Malick expands his theory to the dawn of time, taking his film into a lengthy segue showcasing the creation of the universe. Life forms have always affected the others around them and they can appear and disappear without warning or explanation, rendering most of our problems completely pointless.
The obvious but supposed deeper meaning in THE TREE OF LIFE forces the viewer to think there must be more to this, that any experience this spectacular must contain clues to puzzles I’ve never been able to fully understand. Only the idea that our souls continue on throughout time, destined to struggle with the same issues the whole way, despite our ability to decide how we approach and master our troubles, is not exactly new. For as much depth as THE TREE OF LIFE portends to have, it rests fairly comfortable on the surface most of the time. It is however one of the loveliest surfaces I’ve ever stared into.

Thanks for reading.
LUNCH rating is out of 10.

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June 19, 2011
very nice review, Joseph...very nice indeed. Amazing choice of words in your closing. Thanks!
June 26, 2011
Thank you, sir. I appreciated that. So gorgeous, just overly ambitious, I think. Any time filmmakers try to encapsulate the grander meanings of life, they inevitably fall short. They are only human after all.
More The Tree of Life reviews
review by . June 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
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
posted in Movie Hype
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
posted in Movie Hype
**** 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
posted in Movie Hype
'The Tree Of Life' 'Two Jews On Film' Only One Says Bravo To Malick's Brilliant Masterpiece (Video)
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
posted in Movie Hype
   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 . October 15, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
The Tree of Life: On Second Thought
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 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 …
review by . June 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
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 #24
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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