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Review: The Tree of Life

Posted October 11, 2011 by in Drama







Musical Score

Total Score

79/ 100

What We Thought

Actors: , ,

What We Liked :

Beautiful Cinematography, Solid Acting

What We Disliked:

Plot goes no where, disjointed
Bottom Line

There’s no doubt in the scale Terrance Malick made for Tree of Life. As a filmmaker he has proven to be a master of his craft. It’s just unfortunate that the story he is trying to tell comes through disjointed in the end.

by Max
Full Article

Ambitious, beautiful, and disjointed.

Tree of Life manages to be all this and much more. The eagerly awaited new film from Terrance Malick (Thin Red Line, The New World) is finally here. Malick is trying to say a lot with this picture and as an artistic vision mostly succeeds. Sadly, as viewed purely on an entertainment scale it doesn’t exactly measure up.

Tree of Life is presented in three parts. The first part sets up the question of creation and why God works the way he does. Then the picture delves into creation itself. Hopefully this provides a small glimpse into evolution. During the second act, we follow the life of small family when times were much simpler. Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien have their small family of three boys. The story is mostly focused on Jack’s growth and tough parenting from his father. Finally the third act deals with redemption and forgiveness.

At times the film seems to be running slow. Malick isn’t content on letting shots linger and there’s a countless number of cuts to images that show little details. The funniest thing about Tree of Life is what should be left on the cutting room floor. Every shot seems essential in some undisputable way. The cinematography is draw dropping. This is easily Emmanuel Lubezki‘s greatest work in his fine portfolio.

Surprisingly, Malick does use CGI in this picture. It is just very restrained and seems to flow into the frame in such a way as to not be distracting. The artistry on display throughout Tree of Life is second to none. Malick knows exactly where he wants to take his audience and has seemingly calculated every shot.

The biggest problem is the story within. The growth of young Jack and the control his father has over him. Jack is raised a very strict way and begins to rebel at every opportunity against his parents. He is bitter and relentless in his hatred for his father. Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt) only wants what’s best for his son and he doesn’t know how to be a father any other way. It’s a story we’ve seen countless times before.  It has never been presented in this way, but it felt tired compared to the grand scale Malick was trying to reach.

At the end of it’s run time, Tree of Life isn’t content on answering any questions raised, it only creates more. There are countless shots the film could’ve ended on. A more traditional ending would’ve been achieved if it wasn’t for the last act. Jack (Sean Penn) as an adult is looking for redemption and forgiveness and I believe he has been granted it. There’s no doubt in the scale Terrance Malick made for Tree of Life. As a filmmaker he has proven to be a master of his craft. It’s just unfortunate that the story he is trying to tell comes through disjointed in the end.


Tree of Life
Directed by Terrance Malick
Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain

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About the Author


Chief Editor of Impassionedcinema. A film enthusiast who studies and creates his own films. Criticizing movies is his favorite pass-time.



    I kind of loved this film, though I'll admit, not right away. You're right, it was slow and there was sometimes a disjointed feel to the story. But still, it got in there and hooked me, and had me thinking about it for a couple of days after. I would like to see it again on the big screen and see if I feel any differently.


      It's so difficult seeing it with people though. Even when I was walking out of theater there was people rejecting the entire film. I'm not swayed by their opinions, but it kind of puts a downer on the whole experience .Certainly I'd love to take in again and see everything I missed. I've since watched two more Terrance Malick films and I really enjoy Thin Red Line and I can understand the technique he uses in Tree of Life a little easier now as a result.


    i respected the film, i didnt really love it though.i could of watched a whole film about the family dynamics, i just didnt think it needed the books malik put onto the film. plus i found the voice over really irritating. great review though


      Oh…then you agree with my review. I would've been perfectly happy if it just ended without the bookends. I guess that wasn't in Malick's vision though. I'll probably visit it again, but I don't think I liked it as much as some might've.


    Glad you re-posted this in that I missed it the first time around. You are right, it creates so many unanswered questions. I failed to see a lot of the beauty in this film and found myself wanting my 2 hours back. But had fun writing the review anyways.

    Good write up Max!


      The cinematography in this film is amazing. At times, I think that's all Malick wanted to achieve…something truly beautiful to behold. Too bad the film suffered as a result. I can see how some people would regret having seen the picture, but entertainment value aside, I think it's a intriguing film.


    This was one of the most difficult films to review. It's been a while since I've seen this, so would be interesting to see if my opinion has changed since August!

    I found the actual storyline to be quite intriguing, from the family perspective and actually would've like to have seen that as a seperate film.


    Truth be told…I went to the theater by myself to see this and I almost fell asleep during the primordial ooze segment. Something about ancient times puts me to sleep. I'm not sure the story can actually be evaluated but I tried my best. I'm glad you enjoyed it since this seems to be one of those polarizing films.

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