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on 5 December 2015
my mum died recently and this film articulated so many feelings.an emotional experiene
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on 22 July 2016
A very weird film, really pretentious as it tries so much symbolism with how the world formed and dinosaurs and strange monologues from Sean Penn. I somewhat enjoyed the story with the boys and their parents but for the very lengthy segments of animals, space and the symbolic journey Sean Penn is on I was bored senseless, can't believe I made it to the end.
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on 25 April 2017
great storyline
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on 6 September 2013
I have a cautious love for this film. An oddity in some ways, seeking to place the story of one family and their regrets in the context of the beginning of existence and the eventual end of the world. Majestically shot, superbly acted, but perhaps Malick could have placed the very important dialogue (of which there is not that much in the whole film) a bit higher in the mix. Subtitles helped me out here in a way that people who saw the film in the cinema weren't blessed with. With great art comes the risk of great pretentiousness and this is certainly a film that walks the tightrope between the two.Which side of the tightrope you fall off and land in will be very much about who, and how reflective you are.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 June 2016
This is a very unusual film - on the one hand, beautifully artistic and poignant; and on the other hand, displaying minimalist story-telling and limited character development. It is a very surreal movie, reminiscent of 'Love' (2011) and 'Space Odyssey' (1968) inasmuch as there's very little dialogue - and the characters do very little. It's concerned with thought, feeling and contemplation - and is intended to provoke thoughts and feelings ... At its core, the film is about two parents (played by Jessica Chastain and Brad Pitt) who, during the 1950's and 1960's, raise their three children - in a loving but rather authoritarian manner, adhering to Christian traditions. Tragically, one of their sons dies at the age of 19. This loss is devastating, and causes enduring suffering. The movie shifts between the past and the present. And today one of their sons (played by Sean Penn) still mourns the loss. But how such tragedy is depicted is highly unconventional.

The visuals are stunning. It's as if the purpose is to design a piece of art. We see trees blowing in the winds, birds dancing in the air, clouds going past ... And as the mother whispers about her loss to God, asking why her son has been taken, the film embarks on a grand journey. We witness the cosmos in all its grandeur. We see the galaxy, full of stars and nebula. We see the early Earth, being bombarded by meteorites. Volcanoes erupting. Water flowing. And primitive life emerges ... and evolves. We see dinosaurs, and their ultimate extinction. This is the journey life has taken. And to inquire about one life in particular, its meaning and why death has occurred, is a question asked against the backdrop of life in all its radiant entirety.

This is a long film, without a definitive narrative. The plot is as minimalist as possible. It's all about the imagery and emotion. We're invited to ask existential questions. The movie does not present 'answers'. How the viewer perceives the film is up to them - as this is a subjective journey, consequent of the depression suffered by loss.

For me, I enjoyed aspects of the film. Yet, at times, I was slightly bored - and I found the film tried too hard to be clever and sophisticated. However I cannot deny that there are some amazing qualities to this movie. I suspect that it's a film that benefits from repeated viewing. It will be a film that divides audiences - with some people loving it, while others are disappointed by it. It's worth watching - just to see on which side of the divide you fall, for if you do enjoy it then it's a film that ought not to be missed.
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on 8 November 2011
I can't say this film did not affect me- because it did. Was it because I had to continually turn up the volume to hear the imperceptible whispers of its cast? Or was it the outstanding footage from the hubble telescope- interspersed with CGI of the dawn of life on earth?
Of course there was the melancholic narrative and the nostalgic footage of a visually idealic family life; vast green lawns glimpsed from delicately blowing white sheers, tinkling chimes echoing against the hard wood porches of dusk- all rendered from souls of childhoods past- an Americana tribute of well built cars and stoic parentage. Malick also has the benefit of a beautifully drawn score,some originally written and some well-worn classical, which when used in-tandem with the film, evokes an emotional response.
So, yes, it is moving; it is the story of any man - perhaps the director himself- it is about reaching middle-age and then, looking back. What does it all mean?
The idea of the Tree of Life is that it is essentially a motif for various theologies, mythologies and philosophies; a mystical concept alluding to the interconnectedness of all life on our planet and a metaphor for common descent in the evolutionary sense. If you keep this definition in mind when viewing, the film is a beautiful poem representing this concept. A conversation piece.
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on 12 May 2016
I recorded this when film4 screened it recently and have just tried to watch it. I managed 30 minutes. I love arthouse and indie films far more than the heavily advertised blockbusters that usually fill our cinemas so I thought this would be right up my street but ..... it struck me as pretentious nonsense. I actually laughed at some of the deliberate artiness of it, it was like watching a parody of an arthouse film. It reminded me of listening to someone playing a really self indulgent piece of jazz which is too random and all over the place to enjoy, but which some people pretend to enjoy in order to appear cool (king's new clothes phenomenon). What I saw of this film jarred my brain - I'm wondering if that was maybe the arty point of it? If so then maybe I 'got' it - but I still hated it. I simply couldn't continue watching. There were however some beautiful cinematographic images.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 22 November 2014
This film is nothing if not ambitious, and I suppose it deserves some credit for attempting to ask what life is all about with sincerity, and trying to place human life in the bigger scheme of things. The soundtrack is continuous and dominant, plastered over a film that is rather inflated. An opening announcement suggests you turn it up loud, presumably to override critical faculties. By trying to question God's purpose and pitching the whole enterprise at this exalted level, its imagery often falls flat, or would do if the camera stopped gliding around for a second. It conflates images of natural phenomena and the planets - breathtaking in themselves - with the story of one family in Texas, and the stylistic constraints this imposes on the domestic depiction do not work in the film's favour, although they do make it possible by trying to give an air of lightness and transience to the everyday which matches the grandest imagery, or at least doesn't jar. It is all of a piece. The Fifties sections, which take up most of the film, show 'daily life' although it's hardly recognisable as such. It is shot in a way that suggests the view from a fairground ride, but without the lights or colour - you've hardly seen something and it swoops out of the picture. It succeeds in avoiding a soap-opera feel, but the setting is pretty blank in itself. The family of three boys live in a house that seems devoid of any specific character, and lead bland lives to match - no time of day is ever really clear, no sense of a routine or any of the basic things that underpin any real life. Instead we get whispered metaphysical questions, swooping close-ups and sharp cut-aways, often over great music: Berlioz and Couperin are used quite a lot, to good effect. It is greater than the film itself, but in keeping with its themes, so some of this does rub off. Not all the music is great, however ... there are some new-agey excerpts by composers like Preisner and Gorecki which I find a bit dubious, but they do fit, in a way. The acting by the children is fine, but the three star leads - the parents and one of the sons decades later - do nothing very exceptional, and the characterisation of the Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain roles seemed like an empty space - they are just on screen, and there's not much more to it. They seem like pawns moved about amid all this camerawork and the soundtrack. The final scene on a beach is meant to be the very acme of spirituality and vision, but looks more like a Jack Vettriano painting; its religiose overtones leave you confused, it is such a mixture of obviousness and sentimentality, with a bit of Magritte thrown in and some more harking back to the 2001-style imagery. For a mystical concluding beach scene, Jonathan Glazer's Birth is so much more effective and moving than this.

A sequence where an adolescent takes an older woman's negligee and lays it flat on the bed seems copied from Malle's Le souffle au coeur, another film set in the 1950s about three brothers where the father is draconian and absent for a time ... but that is everything this film isn't. Even the unpretentious Australian film, Love in Limbo, also about three boys in the 50s, is probably better (as is the Canadian Crazy, about four brothers, set in the 70s). These films were much less noticed and seem consigned to oblivion, even though they have great appeal. I am baffled by The Tree of Life getting so many prizes - how could the jury at Cannes have found it deserving of the Palme d'Or? Malle's film was nominated for one Oscar - which it didn't even get, but then he was French ...
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on 10 October 2015
The Tree of Life a mixture of dreamy reverie that Malick does so well and grim kitchen sink realism that’s never before featured in his films as far as I’m aware. I found the dreamy symbolic passages quite brilliant – as good as I’ve ever seen on film.

The other stuff, which concerns a grim family situation in 1950s Texas, was excellent in its own right. Brad Pitt was terrific as the tyrannical father and Jessica Chastain was quite gorgeous though, of course, playing the stereotypically submissive wife. The boys who played the sons were also excellent.

However, the family story was too long and drawn out and certainly if one were watching it in the cinema it would be quite an ordeal for both mind and backside. If Malick had edited this part of the film and cut about 30 minutes from it he would still have had a decent length 100 minute feature film and probably a masterpiece.

But sure there’s no talking to these genius types.
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I start to write this not knowing what I feel about The Tree of Life. Such is the nature of the written word, something becomes of what is not there.

My first thoughts are given to the narrative style of the filmmaker. Or how the story is put together. Fascinating. And cinematic. Memories of 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is a truly cinematic film even with Malik's trademark hand-held camera technique which I found rewarding as it does fit the environment for the story. I went into FACT cinema Liverpool not knowing what the story would be but having recently viewed Thin Red Line on dvd was sufficiently impressed to wish to see his latest film.

Left the film feeling that bringing up kids means that two plus two does not always make four. It may be the basis for our education system but logic and parenting are not natural bedfellows. I also was reminded that before I was born women were treated as second class humans.

You do not have to like your kids in order to bring them up well. In the film parents trying to force the issue of loving are seen right through. In the audience at my afternoon viewing one elderly couple nearby were bemused by it all, I shan't say the basic questions they had, it would give the story away. I can understand their bewilderment. Where I was totally immersed in the filmmaker's visual flair and appreciated his grasp of infinity, others may dive in the popcorn.

Whilst I have mentioned how cinematic the film is I should also point out that the dvd will bring the best out of the gorgeous soundtrack. The sound of aloneness is the best I can do in respect of its description. Brahms and pipe organs are part of the story. Part of a character. And don't be put-off by the provisional artwork on the dvd cover: this movie ain't gooey. 16th September: I note the final cover artwork has a much more balanced approach between the family and the Universe displaying something for everyone in an ordered fashion.

Finally one can not comment on The Tree of Life without mentioning a spiritual element. In my case I saw enough to just about believe that Malick left something for us who lean toward the idea of a complex inventive realism which is persistently happening throughout the universe and the one next door.

I knew I'd get somewhere. Hope you do too.
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