At a point in childhood, you’ll lose your innocence in a moment that you will least expect, and you may not even know it. If you’re lucky enough, reality won’t cut you until the later years. In Terrence Malick’s film, The Tree of Life, the magnifying glass is placed on a family in the 1950s, observing the life of three brothers, presenting the loss of innocence of the eldest boy. The sweeping film stars Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken and Sean Penn.
Malick’s surreal, pure style of filmmaking with The Tree of Life, as with his other films, is captivating in ways that go beyond dialogue. The cumulative feeling of all the quiet, majestic shots are more thought-provoking than actions or words if one appreciates the work. The disjointed, back and forth style, going as far back as the beginning of Earth, may leave viewers feeling enlightened at best. When the film is in a linear style of storytelling, as it is with the story of the 1950s family, it still succeeds due to the fine acting.
Brad Pitt plays Mr. O’Brien, the father of the three brothers in the film, and husband to Mrs. O’brien, played by Jessica Chastain. Pitt plays the role of a strict father with a short temper, and does so with ease, making for a nice change of pace from his previous roles. Despite being an asshole of a father, reminiscent of Robert DeNiro’s role in This Boy’s Life, Pitt indirectly shows he truly does love his boys. Chastain also does a satisfactory job, playing the graceful Mrs. O’brien, smothering her boys with care, yet being a pushover as well.
At it’s best, The Tree of Life is a piece of timeless art come to life inside the viewers mind, capturing that point in our lives where reality invades our imagination. It’s definitely not a film for everybody, but if you enjoy a film that challenges you, barking up the Tree of Life is essential.
The film is not shot in a linear sense, and the film has big gaps without any dialogue. Malick’s film definitely demands viewers to be in a certain state of mind. This isn’t the typical Brad Pitt film.
The unorthodox style of the film is the biggest detractor, as the film jumps back in forth in time with no clear rhyme or reason, forcing viewers to actually think about what is happening and fill in the blanks; sometimes this works, and other times it just feels tedious. The scenes about the beginning of the universe and Earth are truly majestic, but some may yawn at it all the same.
Additionally, the ending is way out there and will sky-rocket over many heads. What is happening? Some may not even care to know.
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