The Tree of LifeDirector: Terrence Malick, River Road Entertainment, Rated PG, 139 mins
Reclusive director, Terrence Malick is not a prolific filmmaker as indicated by the time lapses between his last two movies - The New World in 2005 and The Thin Red Line in 1998.
His latest release can be best described as an art house movie that is a thought-provoking spectacle with limited dialogue, a kaleidoscope of brilliant images, religious undertones and a perplexing plot.
The story is set in the 1950’s and revolves around an American family comprising the mother, Mrs O’Brien, portrayed by Jessica Chastain (The Debt), the father, Mr O’Brien (Babel star Brad Pitt), and three young sons, with the focus being on the tempestuous relationship between the father and his young son Jack (played by newcomer Hunter MCCracken) - and later, on Jack (Milk’s Sean Penn) as an adult.
In between this family’s relationships, Malik also delves into the origin of the universe showing the emergence of the planets, volcanic explosions and the beginning of life itself which then leads to plants, fish and the dinosaurs.
The few scenes that Penn appears in as an adult are in the present showing him in the business world, alone in a modern city but also in a dream sequence wandering in a desert, and later in the closing “heavenly’’ scene (with accompanying choral music), gathering on a beach with a crowd of characters including his own family from the 50’s.
Besides some inspirational imagery, the performances of Pitt, Penn and Chastain come over as rather staged while some will have difficulty understanding the significance of such an abstract storyline in this overlong production (139 minutes) - let alone fully appreciating Malick’s real meaning of his Tree of Life.
Despite receiving both applause and brickbats at its screening during this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Malik’s movie still managed to win the major prize, the coveted Palme d’Or (The Golden Palm Award).
VIC'S VERDICT: 3 Rubber Stamp
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