The film centers on Jack (Hunter McCracken) who grew up in the 1950s with his family. He has a very difficult relationship with his dominating father (Brad Pitt) and his mother (Jessica Chastain) can’t really protect him or his two brothers (Laramie Eppler and Tye Sheridan). Having the story as the centerpiece, the movie also goes way backwards and forwards in time.
The Tree of Life is an absolutely gorgeous movie. It is really, really stunning to watch. Unfortunately it’s also about an hour too long, boring and just way too esoteric-spiritual for my taste.
Terrence Malick and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki really know how to frame a picture. It really is a film with one stunning picture after the other. But at two hours length that just isn’t enough. The part that focusses on the family in the 50s is probably one of the best films of the year.
Unfortunately there is too much around the story. The travelling backward in time to the beginning of the universe and life and the travelling forward in time until they all go to heaven (?) just really didn’t work for me. And the continuous Jessica-Chastain-whispered voice overs just bugged the hell out of me. And all the spirituality and meaning-searching really aren’t my thing.
The cast was great though – the adults unsurprisingly, but Malick also found some very talented child actors, especially Hunter McCracken. Also, if I was Brad Pitt, I’d check if Laramie Eppler wasn’t actually his child because holy resemblance, Batman! (See above.)
The Tree of Life is definitely an ambitious project and I guess Terrence Malick should be commended for that, but just like with The New World, in the end the film is shattered by the ambition and just falls short of the mark.
Summarising: There is a stunning movie hiding in this beautiful but boring package. If you don’t fall asleep before it starts.