The story of a family in Waco, Texas during the 1950’s whose
oldest son struggles with his parents' conflicting teachings.
The Tree of Life (2011)
Written and Directed by Terrence Malick
Starring Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn,
Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler, Tye Sheridan
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Director,
There’s great power in allowing yourself to put your guard down and rewatch a film that you know is going to bring up massive amounts of emotions. I am no longer surprised when I rewatch something and feel completely different than I felt the first time I saw it. The Tree of Life is a film I got to see pretty shortly after its release, but I had no idea what I was watching or that you were allowed to do Terrence Malick things on the big screen. It seemed slow and plotless back when I saw it but I was completely wrong. It oozes with incredible questions about our existence and that’s enough of a plot for me.
The Tree of Life focuses on the O’Briens, a family living in Waco, Texas during the 1950’s. At the beginning of the film we are shown Mrs. O’Brien during the 60’s as she receives a telegram that her son has died in the war. Then we see Jack O’Brien in the current day, clearly struggling with some of his thoughts. Out of nowhere, there’s a breathtaking showcase of how Earth came to be. Then we end up back in the 50’s, where Jack, the oldest of the three O’Brien sons is eleven years old and full of curiosity. Mrs. O’Brien is a nurturing mother and Mr. O’Brien is a very stern father. Jack’s two younger brothers, R.L. and Steve have just as much energy as he does. The O’Briens live through hot summer days while present day Jack has a sort of existential experience while thinking about his past.
The Tree of Life is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. Maybe the most beautiful and it’s not just showy for the hell of it. The film has very serious intent every single second, but it doesn’t spoon-feed you. It gives you some breathing room and then out of nowhere it sweeps you off your feet. Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain fucking nail it as Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien. Sean Penn gives a subtle but powerful performance as the current day Jack. It’s Hunter McCracken as young Jack who steals the show though. His ability to characterize what it’s like to just be a young kid is truly outstanding. Emmanuel Lubezki is one of the best cinematographers to ever do it in my opinion and his work in The Tree of Life is almost too much to handle. Jack Fisk has been working with Terrence Malick since the 70’s and that chemistry shows in this film. Malick lived in Waco for a good chunk of his childhood and Fisk was the only guy who could give him the right production design. The Tree of Life is a masterpiece through and through.