Movie review: Life’s meaning on the big screen

July 17, 2011 – It’s not the first time a writer/director explored the meaning of life on the big screen, but few attempts have come close to Terrance Malick’s recent release, “The Tree of Life”.

And I don’t mean that in an entirely positive way.

When I walked in to the theater, I imagined myself writing a wonderful review afterwards – something along the lines of if the very first daffodil of spring were a movie, it would be “The Tree of Life” because it’s almost perfect. After all, it was billed as a touching story of a Texas family in the 1950s, it stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, and it won top honors at the Cannes Film Festival this spring.

The movie also received overwhelmingly positive reviews for its artistic style, but some critics took issue with Malick’s directorial style and, in particular, the film’s disconnected flow. I have to agree with latter because while visually it is lovely, its flow is fragmented, and the movie turns into a collection of scenes that never fit together.

After I returned home, I read one review where the critic compared it’s disjointed transition between scenes to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” That seems fitting. You could also compare it to a James Michener novel because he likes to begin his stories with the wooly mammoth, and Malick teases the audience with images of the beginning of life on earth.

It would be too harsh to say I hated it. The story explores the journey of a family’s oldest son, Jack (Sean Penn), as he tries to resolve the complicated relationship he shares with his father (Brad Pitt) after a death in the family. It was touching, interestingly different in its own way, and extremely well acted, so good in fact that I forgot they were acting. But I can’t recommend it for the masses, although I know the artistic few may spot brilliance.

So I have to sit in the middle on this one; I didn’t love it, but I’m glad I experienced it.


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A girl trying to live the dream.

3 thoughts on “Movie review: Life’s meaning on the big screen”

  1. Thanks for the review — I’m not a big movie goer but I do like to study people and thoughts. The disconnected view point may be how he sees life rather than a reflection of his directoral capabilities. Many people lack purpose and choose the perspective that life is a sequence of unrelated events on the continuum of time. I personally take the extreme opposite view seeing everything working together for good. I don’t think that’s fantasy, though it may stimulate discussion among your guests, because I see God’s hand (when I look for it) in everything.

    1. Pam, I’m sure you’re right about the director’s point of view and how he sees life. I just think maybe he was trying too hard to be artsy … and I got lost in it.

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