Movie Mom

Movie Mom


The Tree of Life

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:PG-13 for thematic issues
Profanity:None
Nudity/Sex:Some pubescent exploration
Alcohol/Drugs:Some alcohol
Violence/Scariness:Tense family confrontations, off-screen death of a child
Diversity Issues:None
Movie Release Date:June 3 2011
DVD Release Date:October 11, 2011
On those dark nights of the soul, when we consider not just life but Life, and Meaning, and our place in the cosmos, our lives don’t play out in our minds in sequence.  Images and snatches of words flicker back and forth in what can seem like random order or they can seem to come together like a pointillist painting, revealed at last only at the end. The famously reclusive, famously painstaking filmmaker Terrence Malick has made a film that projects such a meditation on screen, inviting us to bring to it or own search for meaning.Its non-linear, almost anti-linear style admits or rather welcomes many interpretations. Whole passages are impressionistic, almost abstract. Like the “Rite of Spring” section of “Fantasia” or the famous “Powers of Ten” short film popular with middle school science teachers, it explores the farthest reaches of time and space.  The slightly more traditional “movie” sections alternate between the story of a family like Malick’s own in mid-century Waco, Texas and contemporary scenes of the now-adult son of the family (Sean Penn), who wanders almost wordless through settings of steel and glass.

Malick has only made five films in nearly 40 years. Each of them has had a meditative quality, a haunting voiceover, exquisite images, and themes centering on the loss of Eden.  “The Tree of Life” begins with a quote from the Book of Job, but even though very sad events befall the O’Brien family this is not the story of good people whose faith is tested by a series of unbearable losses.  It is an exploration of how we fit into the grandest possible scheme of things, how the patterns repeat in the division of cells to make complex systems, the development of mechanical formulas so singular that they merit a patent, the awakening of the first adult thoughts in a child, innocence and loss, harsh reality and ethereal imagination.  

Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien are so archetypal they do not even have first names.  They are just Father (never Dad) (Pitt) and Mother (pre-Raphaelite beauty Jessica Chastain).  Pitt sheds his movie-star charisma for his Missouri roots, showing us a mid-century man from Middle America, every line of him as straight as the slide rule that like O’Brien himself is about to be out of date.  He loves his three boys fiercely and fights down his own tenderness to teach them the lessons he thinks they must have to survive.  He is all that is hard and logical and precise and mechanical.  Mrs. O’Brien is gentle, almost silent, so in tune with nature she seems to float through it.

The movie’s near-miracle is the way it evokes the muddy, let’s-break-something boy world.  Sending a frog up in a rocket, racing behind a truck spewing clouds of DDT, shoving against each other like puppies, holding in wonder a neighbor’s neglige, the heartless, heedless, long, long thoughts of a boy’s life are beautifully portrayed.

It is easy to understand why this film was both booed at Cannes and given its highest honor.  I admired the film’s audacity but winced at its pretentiousness.  There are some moments of stunning beauty and power.  But other parts seemed overdone and empty.

(If you want to know what I think the ending means, send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com — and tell me what you think it means!)

Parents should know that this film includes an offscreen death of a child with devastating parental grief, children’s play results in death of an animal, a father is strict with children and his wife to the point of brutality, some dinosaur violence, some disturbing existential themes.

Family discussion: What is this movie about?  How do the creation scenes relate to the story of the family?  Why is there so little dialog?  What is happening in the end on the beach?

If you like this, try: the short film “Powers of Ten” and the other films by Terrence Malick including “Days of Heaven” and “Badlands”

 



Previous Posts

The Woman in Gold
The very title is a form of theft. When Gustav Klimt painted the portrait that gives this film its name, he called it "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer." She was a warm, vibrant young woman

posted 5:58:01pm Mar. 31, 2015 | read full post »

Interview: The Woman in Gold's Simon Curtis and E. Randol Schoenberg
Director Simon Curtis told me, "My last film was My Week with Marilyn, and this one is my century with Maria."  He is referring to "The Woman in Gold," with Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann, who brought a lawsuit to get back the portrait of her aunt Adele, painted by Gustav Klimt, which had been stole

posted 3:37:47pm Mar. 31, 2015 | read full post »

Faith-Based Movie Picks -- The Today Show
In honor of Easter and Passover, the Today Show has some good suggestions for faith-based movies, from the very serious and respectful to the light-hearted.

posted 3:13:29pm Mar. 31, 2015 | read full post »

Another "Star is Born" Movie? Possibly, with Bradley Cooper as Director and Beyonce to Star!
A movie that's already been done three times (at least) may just get yet another remake if the rumors are true that Bradley Cooper will direct and Beyoncé will appear in "A Star is Born."  The original 1937 version, said to be inspired by (among others) the marriage of aging vaudeville star Al Jol

posted 3:54:02pm Mar. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Exclusive Clip and Contest: What Would Jesus Do -- The Journey Continues
We are honored to present an exclusive clip from "WWJD (What Would Jesus Do): The Journey Continues," inspired by the best-selling classic book In His Steps. WWJD: The Journey Continues is availab

posted 3:40:29pm Mar. 30, 2015 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.