The Tree of Life

Rated PG-13 138 minutes 2011

Writer-director Terrence Malick brings his fabled point of view (Badlands, Days of Heaven, The New World) to a project more narratively ambitious than anything he’s done before, in the otherwise rhapsodic story of a nuclear family of five in 1950s Texas (Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, and three juvenile actors) and what their lives mean in the grand scheme of things. The film has an unusual amount of Malick’s trademark visual poetics, so many that at times they threaten to swamp the slender plot line. That narrative is precariously sandwiched between two “movements” of natural scenes (erupting volcanoes, jellyfish, cataclysms in distant galaxies, etc.) that go on and on, very much like Godfrey Reggio’s Qatsi films. That’s a bad sign. To put it plainly, this is the most pretentiously “philosophical” Malick film yet. Somewhere along the line, the coda involving Sean Penn as one of the Texas family’s sons gets lost in the shuffle. A disappointment, despite the strong central scenario. (138 min.)

Film Credits

Official Site:

Director: Terrence Malick

Producer: Sarah Green, Bill Pohlad, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Grant Hill and Donald Rosenfeld

Cast: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Fiona Shaw, Irene Bedard, Jessica Fuselier, Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler and Tye Sheridan


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