The Tree of Life (2011)

tree of life poster 2011 movie
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Amazing visuals and sound

Not linear for people wanting a story

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Tree of Life

Studio: Plan B Entertainment

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s): May 27, 2011

MPAA Rating: PG-13

tree of life brad pitt hug

Be prepared for years of therapy, Dad

Jack O’Brien (Hunter McCracken/Sean Penn) tries to come to grips with his past.  His mother (Jessica Chastain) was loving and giving and his father (Brad Pitt) was cold and sometimes cruel.  It is the two sides of life that Jack has inside of him that he cannot reconcile.  All of these emotions of his childhood with his brothers in Texas are juxtaposed with the creation, evolution, and death of Earth and the universe…as Jack tries to determine what his life means in the bigger picture.

Directed by Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life is family drama parable.  Winner of Palme d’Or at Cannes, The Tree of Life had a relatively wide release for an art house picture.  Some viewers were critical of the film which led to demands for money refunds.  The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography.

tree of life jessica chastain butterfly

Everyone loves Mom!

What works about The Tree of Life are the visuals…especially the creation scenes.  It is like candy for the eye and must be seen in HD so pick up the Blu-Ray if you are watching it.  Over and over again, Malick gives you sights that look like they should be in a nature documentary rather than a movie and accompanies them with booming sound (it is the first time I’ve seen the Blu-Ray recommend turning up the sound for a movie before the movie starts playing).  The crisp visuals and sounds makes it hard to turn away, despite a lack of narrative.  You keep wondering what you will see next and how it is pieced together.

What doesn’t work (for most) in The Tree of Life is the story…It is hard pressed to say there is a true story.  It is more of a idea with nature vs. nurture and love vs. strength.  It is the idea of how we get from one place in life to another.  Malick does a great job making it feel like you are getting snippets from a bigger life.  Half the time, the answers aren’t even given on what you are seeing which leads to a lot of interpretation of the basic storyline which can be frustrating.

tree of life dinosaur scene

Not many dramas involving dinosaurs…

With this type of a narrative, Brad Pitt probably shouldn’t have been cast.  It isn’t that Brad Pitt does a bad job in the movie, in fact he’s quite good.  What having Brad Pitt does is open up to more viewers and puts it on more screens.  This movie should have never left the art house.  People walked out of the movie because of the nature of the story, and they assumed something totally different with Brad Pitt’s involvement.  This hurt the movie in the press and public eye because there were lots of stories like this.  If they had picked a smaller actor, it wouldn’t have gotten the press, but it probably would have been better received by a public that is more accepting of a film like this (on a side note, Brad Pitt’s roll was originally intended for Heath Ledger before his death).

tree of life ending heaven brad pitt sean penn

If there is a Heaven, you hope this is how it is…

The Tree of Life is a great looking but tricky movie and inspite of little story, it is hard to stop watching.  Those who say they know everything going on in it are probably full of it, but it doesn’t matter if you do understand what is going on.  The characters are just living life.  It is a glimpse of what it all means…to the individual and as a whole to everyone.  Are we significant as individual?  Do our lives mean anything?  Is there a God and does he play a role in day-to-day living?  These are all questions posed in this film…but a movie can’t be expected to answer questions that don’t have answers.

Related Links:

The 84th Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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