Tree of Life, The

Release date: May 16, 2011
Director: Terrence Malick
Screenplay by: Terrence Malick
Cast: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain

I was very, very hyped to see the movie. It has Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, the trailer looked amazing and Amy kept being jealous that I was going to see it before her.

Add to that all the good things you have been hearing about it, I was prepared to shed a bucket of tears, so it was really sad when I found myself snorting and getting mad while watching the movie, though it has it’s amazing moments as well. As of now, I’m still on the fence as to whether love or dislike The Tree of Life.

The film is part the story about a family; part the story of the origin of the universe, earth and life. It aims to show us what exactly makes us into who we are and, ultimately, become. As well as how little that matters when we are so small in the vast universe.

I really loved the parts where we get to see the family interact, Brad Pitt doing an amazing job as a father that is both a tyrant and a hero. He is so bitter about his life, thus enforcing his power at home. He tries to teach his boys the right ways of life, trying to toughen them up, demanding that they behave constantly. Then we have Jessica Chastain playing opposite him, as the mother, she is free-spirited and very soft. She often seems to have her head in the clouds, indulging her sons in the beauties of life.

The story is given in very small pieces of a puzzle, there is no real plot nor story, we follow the family as they grow and develop. Suddenly the boys are nearing adolescence, trying  to find their ways in the world tackling the question we all tackle — love, sex, life and death. Among them, the story about life is unfold, and we are to be awed about the beauty of the universe, the beauty of humankind.

So far, I got you Malick. I can sense where you are trying to go with this yet the message is not that clear. I think that many will find The Tree of Life to be very pompous and artsy-fartsy, which I do, I find it to be 50% try-hard but 50% poetic stunning.

There is no denying that the story is very personal. I believe that Malick is trying to show his point of view about life. Sure, you parents sucked and therefore you grew up to become a somewhat bitter and sorrowful person. Sure, the pain you feel is breaking your soul, but what are you compared to the vast universe? What is your pain compared to the beauty and mystery that is life? Yes, we are a speck of sand and we should be happy that we even exist.

I think the best way to explain this movie is to compare it to a symphony. Every symphony has a story, but that story is never clear. Or, every symphony has a story that sounds different to every person that listens to it. Symphonies are complex — personal and oh so painstakingly beautiful, or sound like a bunch of crap — so is this film, which makes it a little bit confusing. I feel that Malick wanted too much with it, and I sense so many symbols are being thrown at us. Too much stuff is being presented so what am I suppose to focus on? Food for thought.

I think this is the longest review I have ever done about a movie. Which proves to show how undecided I am about it. I urge to discuss it more as to make up my mind. But… is there a reason to make a decision about it? I doubt it, I think I will let it stay with me as it is, rather than trying to understand what it was.

P.S It is a damn shame that they didn’t do more with Penn, he was in the movie for like five minutes. D.S

Rating: ★★★½☆ 


Music is all I do: I work in music, I write about music, I listen to music.

12 Responses

  1. Cello says:

    Sounds like you didnt like the film but all the contributing factors of why it SHOULD have been good is clouding your final judgment. Most reviews I read are mixed, so I’m still on the fence myself.

    • Julili says:

      @Cello, Yeah, I’m here some days in to watching it and I can’t say if I like it or not. The story about the family is amazing. The kids did an amazing job, Brad was so good.
      It’s not your typicall story-telling and that I can accept. But I still think you need to respect you audience, you need to guide them a little as well as giving them something to think about.
      Right now it pretty much feels like Malick just made a movie only for him.

  2. amy says:

    Have to admit… I’m pretty much floored by this types of movies hahaha. You make it sound like a mixture of The Fountain and Benjamin Button xD I’m down with that.

  3. Juan Barquin says:

    I’m curious, how did you feel about his other films? Because it seems like The Tree of Life appeals the most to people who are major fans of his other films and have developed a deep connection to them in some way or another. The film definitely seems a bit self-indulgent and intensely personal, but he’s been making it for forty years, so it’s bound to be more for him than for anyone else.

    /rambling thoughts before juan sees the movie

    • Julyssa says:

      @Juan Barquin, I’ve only seen the “The Thin Red Line” and that movie moved me beyond words. Still so powerful in my mind.

      Funny thing is that I myself share many of the ideas Malick has about life. To me this movie was very personal and it managed to move me. But I still wish it had been executed differently.

  4. Castor says:

    I think most reviews have been that ambivalent, praising the art and ambition behind it but finding the execution flawed. So looking forward to seeing it next week!

    • Julyssa says:

      @Castor, Yeah, but I think here we need to have a discussion about what makes a movie a movie.
      Thinking about the movie some more, I think that Malick might want to change how movies are seen. Sure, it feels more artful than you regular blockbuster but it can still appeal to a larger crowd.
      I really think that he wanted to step put of the “normal” movie-making agenda and create something that is…. well that just is I guess.

      • Castor says:


        Oh there is no doubt that Malick wanted to experience and doing something that defies movie conventions. That’s what visionary director like him always do.

  5. hmmmm….sounds very abstract….hopefully it’s not pretentious..i still have plans to see this.

  6. Rodrigo says:

    Excellent review, Julyssa. You deserve a hug.

    Also, this is the first time in my life that I have seen a Terrence Malick film. I managed to somehow enjoy it for the most part – and feel frustrated at the same time while watching it – thanks to reading in advances reviews like yours (and Castor as well) so at least I knew what the hell I was getting into before watching it.

    It’s fucking wonderful to watch it from a technical and visual standpoint, moments of the family I could relate to and felt pretty familiar to watch to the point where it feels poignant. And the film mostly worked to me as a symphony (definitely agree with you on it), but this film has to be one of the most side-tracking films of all-time thanks to Malick trying to play God.

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