The Tree of Life Movie Review

 BY: REBECCA ARKWRIGHT

 BETHANY W.Va. - The movie The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick, follows the journey of the eldest son, Jack (Sean Penn), who tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt). The life of middle-aged Jack O’Brien is largely influenced by his childhood in 1950’s Texas with his parents and two younger brothers. The dichotomy in which his parents showed him love are very different to say the least. This often caused an emotional conflict within himself which shaped him into the man he is today.

 The film exemplifies a strong sense of ambition and deep humility. It portrays the everyday life, which was influenced by the director’s memories of his own hometown,  that is tied to two defining concepts of space and time, and the very present spirit of life. The director uses a technique in this film that consists of four separate contrasting sections that could be broken down into as simple terms as: setting, tone, plot, and conclusion. 

The film begins with the setting in the 1950’s, introducing an American family which leaps back and forth between the past and present day that helps in setting up the characters and their relationships. Then the film enters its next sequence which represents the tone, which is a “trippy” impressionistic journey through evolution that contains a limited amount of voice overs and lacks any dialogue, actors, or events which can be somewhat of a confusing and existential experience. 

The next portion of the film, the plot, presents us with the return of the family and the main body of the movie with a foreboding sense of darkness. Its focus is that of the ongoing love-hate relationship between a father and his son. The film presents you with the idea that each character has their own sense and definition of that goodness is and how they plan to reach it in their own way. We finally reach the last segment of the, the conclusion, which is given to you in yet another impressionistic sequence that this time includes the main characters with some voice overs and dialogue. 

The movie has a heavy philosophical and metaphysical representation and tells the story of a families relationships in an artistic way that isn't seen that often in films. The film is a gesture and movement, of learning to love but at the same time learning to fear. It’s even hard to be able to say that this film tells you a story. If I had to describe it in another way, I would be most inclined to tell you that it is more of an impression of what childhood is in of itself. It is about experiencing your parents love, the way in which we learn and develop over time, and many other things that we might not give much thought to.

I can’t quite say whether or not that I liked this movie, but I can say that it contains visually stunning components. The Tree of Life isn't presented to you in the simple context of black and white, you aren't told what it is that you should be taking away from it. The idea and concepts in the film aren't just handed to you in a simple way of, “here it is, this is what this movie is about, and this is what it all means.” It is left up to the audience to decide on what the main idea and thoughts are behind this…“impression.”  

 

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