The Tree Of Life – Review

Brad Pitt and Laramie Eppler in THE TREE OF LIFE

Life. It goes on.

Terrance Malick‘s The Tree Of Life (2011) – Evolution is never ending. It is the natural progression of all life. Malick’s film is a beautiful testament to this philosophy, using amazing artistic shots and impressive CG to tell the story of a wanderer reviewing over his childhood and attempting to grasp the origins and meaning of life.

There are two laws; the law of grace, and the law of nature. Grace is total acceptance, love, and nurturing. It is a force that doesn’t ask for anything, yet gives endlessly. Mrs. O’Brien (Jessica Chastian) is the human embodiment of grace. She would teach her children the wonders of the world and of life itself–that everyone is deserving of love. Then, there was the law of nature–cold, unforgiving, and controlling. Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt) was the dominant force of their household, making sure everything went his way. He would unleash his aggression on all of his sons, mostly upon his eldest son Jack (Hunter McCracken, Sean Penn), causing him to lash out in various ways throughout his adolescence.

With the death of several beloved people in his life (including his youngest brother), he grows into his father’s ways. While he is a successful architect, he is visibly unhappy. One day at work, he notices a tall tree outside of his workplace and begins to drift back into his memories to evaluate the state of his existence and how he relates to the overall scheme of things.

Conflicting philosophies.


The Tree of Life contains numerous examples of thought-provoking imagery, notably the forming of the cosmos and the earth itself. A curious potential scenario is presented twice in the film, connected by the river near the family’s hometown of Waco, Texas. This river is shown during the time of the dinosaurs; could this be a hint to reincarnation and completion of an old soul residue? The possibilities of family relations literally over time is astounding to consider.

Both the performances of Chastian and Pitt were impressive as opposing forces, and the intensity between their clashing energies could be felt throughout the later scenes together, and were capped off with the children present. McCracken gave a solid performance as a developing young man trying to decide his own fate as best he could under the circumstances. While Penn’s appearance in the film was brief compared to the others, he still leaves an impression upon the viewer and sets the stage for the plot to unfold.

The message is conveyed via abstract methods, but the film importance stands. There are various paths that can be chosen in life (or lifetimes) at different intervals. These paths could be affected by factors such as shifting environments and attitudes. What the film suggests is that somewhere, at a certain point, there is one overall conclusion–peace.

At any time, an individual could suddenly turn their entire life around and choose eternal harmony and forgiveness.

Source: Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Tree Of Life
  • Editor Rating

  • Rated 4 stars
  • Excellent

  • The Tree Of Life
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  • Last modified: 2012-09-03

Review Summary:

Focusing on a family in Waco Texas in 1956. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence, and struggles with his parents' conflicting philosophies.

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