Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life is, in a word, ambitious. The film is a mixed bag of rich imagery, fragmented storytelling, and commentary on the circle of life and how we're all connected. Malick tackles themes that resonate with all of us: life, death, religion, and family, but what you take away from the abstract film is entirely up to you. I left the theater impressed by Malick's effort and execution, but wishing for a more emotional response. In a nutshell, The Tree of Life is like looking at a painting: to some it may be a masterpiece, others will just see another piece of art they don't get.
In the midst of enough gorgeous footage to fill a National Geographic documentary (Malick certainly puts the "tree" in The Tree of Life), is the story of the O'Brien family in the 1950s. More specifically, the film follows Jack, the eldest of three brothers who reflects on his childhood and the milestones that shaped him as he came of age. Sean Penn plays present-day Jack, who struggles with the meaning of his younger brother's death in battle and his relationship with his family and God. As a child, Jack is adored by his doting mother (Jessica Chastain) and berated by his father (Brad Pitt). The struggle between his innate desire to be just like his father and his will to defy him present one of the bigger conflicts of the film. As his voice-over whispers in prayer: "Why should I be good if you aren't?" To find out what else I thought of the film, just read more