The Tree of Life Review

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Malick has always provided the viewer with emotion-packed insight of the human spirit, whether this be about the futility of man during wartime (The Thin Red Line) or what it means to kill (Badlands), Malick always has something to say, considering this to be his most cryptic and ambitious work to date, there is a lot that can be derived from the viewing experience of this film. Malick’s non-linear storyline about the loss of innocence, formation, repent, memories, and the ability to converse with God is an abstract look at each of these concepts that never really tells you what is happening, but rather conveys this through emotions transmitted from every carefully constructed still of the film. The Tree of Life ties and unties knots as it moves through the cyclical motions of life.  Filled with luscious cinematography from Lubezki’s part, mind-blowing effects that represent the grandiosity of a Supreme Being, free-floating acting, and a confusing, non-linear, abstract format that only Malick could’ve created. Starting in the past, jumping to the present, go way way back, jumping forward to what we know as the past and then going somewhere we don’t know, Malick works magnificently, flowing from one scene to the next with not many scenes of the film telling a story but rather triggering emotions and memories. Starting off from a sadness and repent, Tree of Life centers around memories, formation, and God, Sean Penn plays a grown-up brother remembering the life of his eldest brother who passed away on that very day. As Penn goes on quest in which he seeks to reunite with his family and speak to God we jump back in time, are left to observes the wonders of God as Penn tries to converse with him, and then are placed in the memories of Chastain as she witnesses her sons come onto their own. It is here where the film excels with great performances from everyone, the kids, the parents, especially Chastain and the sense of tainted innocence she brings to the story. Brad Pitt plays what might be a relatable character to some, yet not for good reasons, embodying the ideals of a father from an obsolete generation, Pitt is constantly irritated by his lack-of-self and therefore unleashes that frustration upon is children. This affects each child differently and it is through the eyes of Malick that we see how nurturing affects the formation of each singular little kid, making one more caring, one more defiant, one more aggressive, etc.yet since Malick doesn’t just depict a story in a traditional format each of these character traits and moments are depicted through emotional imagery in its purest form. Watching this film I cannot believe Emmanuel Lubezki didn’t take that award home in 2012, sure he’s won three consecutive Oscar’s for the same category but I truly believe this is his magnum opus. Like Malick, Lubezki is also a living and breathing character of the film, his gliding camera takes take on the subtleties  of each and every scene, but then he jumps to metaphorical imagery and presents in such a way that even though it feels fantastical or celestial it fits in so perfectly with the rest of the film. The Tree of Life is an ambitious work that only Malick could create, its an inspiring experiment of emotion that triggers memories thought long forgotten, a reflective coming-of-age story that I can only compare to 2001: A Space Odyssey in its grand scale and limitless barriers that it tries to depict.

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