The Tree of Life film review
Written and directed by Terrence Malick and starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain, The Tree of Life movie embodies atheist and agnostic views as the characters deal with life tragedies while questioning the existence of God.
The Tree of Life focuses on the depiction of a family living in Texas during the 1950s. Brad Pitt is the stern patriarch of the family and Jessica Chastain plays his wife, the mother of their three sons.
The imagery in this movie is both stark at times and often ethereal. It focuses on the streamlined, clean and cold architecture of modern houses that are barely lived in, it shows the beauty of nature without being quite ready to give God the credit for it, and it shows constant light surrounding special human characters. For example, it is clear that the mother played by Jessica Chastain is forever loved and adored by her three children. Brad Pitt's character, the father on the other hand is a duplicity of personalities and is often depicted as an antagonist. He is unpredictable as he sometimes offers his sons hugs and encouragement but sometimes is truly rude and mean to them. He also bestows asinine punishments that cause his sons to resent him more than respect him. For example, because he slammed a door, one of the sons has to stand and quietly open and close said door over 50 times.
While these children question whether or not they should believe in God, they seem to worship a human being, their mother while going through the motions of family attendance at church on Sundays. They are never taught to truly respect the church as they run up and down and jump on the pews.
The three young boys seem to have a somewhat grim childhood due to the volatility of their father. They seek relief in the basic childhood games and riding their bikes. They seem to have the most peace among them when their father goes away on a lengthy trip with stops around the world as far as China. Their father has over twenty patents and attempts to advertise them. He never became the professional musician he wanted to be and now he dabbles in different types of work, looking for satisfaction.
While the children are offered a bit of a break and some freedom while their father is away, they also lack discipline from their doting mom and it creates the perfect outlet for them to run amuck.
The Tree of Life movie is a coming of age story for the character of the oldest boy Jack especially. Jack experiments with doing deviant things and then feels consumed with guilt. Some examples include shooting his younger brother's finger with a pellet gun, being the leader in neighborhood vandalism and throwing rocks through the windows of a house while his younger peers follow suit, shooting a live frog into the air on a homemade "rocket", and entering a neighbor's home while they are out for the day and stealing a woman's lingerie only to throw it in the river on the run home to get rid of the evidence.
Besides for showing a young Jack's shenanigans, this movie spends quite some time showing scenes of nature including a depiction of Creation and a scene from when dinosaurs walked the Earth.
Finally, a big focus of this movie deals with experiencing death and the reaction to it. The three boys experience the drowning and subsequent attending of the funeral of a childhood friend when they are all at a neighborhood pool. Their parents are there as well. The lifeguard is unable to save him and their father unsuccessfully attempts CPR on the boy. It is always difficult and takes away some innocence when young children have to experience death.
The other death that is the main focus of the film is when one of Jack's younger brother's dies at age nineteen. His mother's voice is frequently featured in a voice over asking "Where were you?" as if to ask where was God and why wasn't He watching over and protecting her child?
She receives 'comfort' from her friends that leaves her very rattled and unsatisfied with statements such as "The good Lord giveth and taketh away" and "At least you still have your other two [sons]".
Sean Penn plays the grown up and jaded Jack who never achieved a firm, concrete and unwavering belief in God. He thinks about his deceased younger brother constantly and we learn that the motions the film has gone through are really from adult Jack's standpoint, the projection of an assortment of childhood memories....
Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken and others
Running Time: 139 minutes
I rate it 2.5/5 stars