A Tree that sucked the Life from me!

The Tree of Life: The latest from “Decade Director” Terrence Malick (my nickname for him…Malick basically directs a film JUST about once every decade. See for yourself HERE).

Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, and others, This film tells interesting story of a man in present day looking back on his troubled childhood in a way that, to many, is not interesting at all.

So many people, (critics, reviewers, movie connoisseurs, intellectuals) absolutely love and praise this film…while this humble movie reviewer fails to see the attraction to what they all see in Terrence Malick’s latest ethereal and existential work entitled The Tree of Life.

Directors David Fincher and Christopher Nolan love it: (vid), Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky from Ebert Presents at the Movies called it “defiantly plotless” yet still loved it: (vid), and Richard Roeper loved it: (vid). But, I did not!

This truly polarizing film blends so much together as it begins by introducing us to so many polar opposites. The way of nature and the way of grace. Father and Mother. Life and Death. Creation and Evolution. But the only thing I felt was boredom and disinterest! As a matter of fact, several of the few of us that sat in the theater for this film left within the first 10 minutes.

This film is very bold in the way in which Malick tells this story without an actual ending. (??) Several things are introduced that play no further importance or role in the film. Even an opening saddening revelation develops into nothing of pertinent meaning for the film overall. The part of Sean Penn is about as important as the 40 or so minutes of no dialogue, only operatic singing and scenes of the cosmos, molecules, and dinosaurs! yes, you read correctly…dinosaurs! (??) Watching the film in theaters truly became a contest of will among myself and the 4 other people in the theater to see who would last the longest!

The Tree of Life contains tons of deep themes and religious undertones which roll throughout such as, duality, contrast in scenes, colors, light and dark, good and evil, battles within, hypocrisy, Unexplained purposes in life. It’s the type of film that causes one to search for hidden meaning in everything, only to possibly discover no meaning in anything. I’ve never watched a movie that asked so many questions and caused so many questions to be asked, and in the end didn’t answer a single one. I stayed through the movie in hopes of questions being cleared up only to have more questions to rise. A very philosophical, psychological, and frustrating film with many unexplained purposes, perhaps imitating life in and of itself since life, often has a lot of unexplained events.

While unconventional, the film is beautiful in its own regard. But much to its downfall. Too many cut scenes and lack of explanations cause the film to be a distraction from itself. The film cuts back and forth from past to present to past, from outerspace scenes to microscopic scenes to galaxies, from dinosaurs to birth of children to jellyfish swimming in the sea, beautifully shown, but more appropriate for a Discovery channel special. I kept waiting for a narrator to explain to me about the migration pattern of the animals or the way in which the earth was born. See a part of it for yourself:

Very beautiful. But it continues for, what seems like, ages. Some of it in silence, but all of it having nothing to do with the story we are introduced to at the beginning. If you survive the first half, the second half gets better by taking you back to the family and focusing on their lives for a while. It picks up with the family in yet, another flashback, and we go through more of putting the pieces together. A quarter of the film tells the continuous story (the 3rd quarter), but most of the other portions do nothing but give beautiful scenery and cause a headache as you attempt to figure out what you just watched.

Oh, all of that and I still haven’t written about the cast: I’ll spend just a little bit of time talking about them, just like the film spends a little bit of time showing them. Brad Pitt does a great job at presenting both sides of a father who is hard, yet caring. Jessica Chastain plays well as the naive and loving mother. and Sean Penn…well, who knows why he’s really in the movie! Pitt notwithstanding, the best actor in this film is Hunter McCracken who plays the younger Jack (Penn’s character).

I liked what they said on Ebert Presents the most. This film is “Defiantly Plotless.” I felt it was pointless, while beautiful and daring, unnecessarily so. Too many cut scenes…a jigsaw puzzle not well put together that ends in a way that causes even more head scratching and online searching for the answer.

The Tree of Life: A beautiful film that unfortunately remains Confusion inducing, Refund evoking, Completely polarizing, and Jurassically boring.

Well, those are my thoughts! As you see, many other reviewers saw it differently. Check it out if you wish and tell me your thoughts!

For a review on the exact opposite spectrum of mine own, visit Castor’s review at Anomalous Material HERE! It’s a good read!

Thanks for reading this LONG review!

Enjoy if you wish…or don’t enjoy! Happy Watching!

TheSp1der’s Score: 1 out of 5 stars for “Tree of Life

up next: Trailer Time Thursday!


  1. Hi, ScarlerSp1der and company:

    It sounds like you bravely took one for the team, Scarlet. Kudos!

    Sean Penn has hit and miss with me. Mostly miss, recently. His best work was his early roles. That peaked out with ‘Carlito’s Way’. Where Penn was almost unrecognizable as Pacino’s gangster/coke head lawyer. Penn hasn’t aged well, either.

    Same story with Malick. His best work was ‘Badlands’ and that was close to 40 years ago.

    Think I’ll not go out on a limb and sit this ‘Tree’ out.


  2. I haven’t seen this film and even with all the rave reviews and this one taking top honors at Cannes, I’m not surprised some people might hate it… and I guess you fall in that camp. I still don’t know which position I’ll be in but I’m still curious to check it out nonetheless as I’ve liked all of Malick’s work despite finding some of them to be quite tedious (I practically ffwd much of A New World until the last half hour with Christian Bale). Thanks for the honest review!


  3. I wanted to see this based on the hype. I’m glad I did no doubt and I would likely watch it again just to take it all in, but it is a slog to get through. It doesn’t help that I don’t like Sean Penn or Brad Pitt as actors.

    Overall I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone based on the difficulty I had watching it, but I would tell people they should see it once to see if they can understand the hype behind it.


    • Sean Penn was basically useless in this film. No wonder later he expressed his anger about his role!

      Yeah, once was enough for me, but, you’re right, as with all movies, people should watch and garner their own opinion.


  4. I’m sorry you didn’t like it. This is a movie which really made me think and, perhaps more importantly, feel. Time will tell, but this may end up being a modern masterpiece. It seems like most of your hang-ups were about it not being a narrative story. Though I don’t know how you found it boring; there was so much going on!


    • Yeah, it’s just one of those things man. Polarizing, even in its reception. I found no true connection with any of the characters and the back and forth between the linear timelines bored me quite a bit. Plus, Sean Penn…Why was he in the movie?

      But to others, it is a fantastic use of the cinematic medium to tell a wonderful story. I am glad it moved you so! Thank you for sharing your insight on the film!!


  5. LOL. Agree to disagree, but that was a fun read.

    Thats the problem with “aiming high” like this. If you dont connect with someone, they think it sucks. As opposed to a movie like New Years Eve, which I suffered through last night… which aims low, and thus has no chance of missing.

    I’m going to do some writing on this soon, I’ll save my counter-arguments for then, LOL. I’m probably going to need time to think this whole thing out anyways.


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