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The Tree of Life (2011)

June 14, 2011

9/10 Big Bang Theories

Life, the universe, and innocence lost in Texas.

The Tree of Life is about a man who finds himself disillusioned and lost in an existence he has no connection with and a world that he no longer understands. In order to get himself out of this funk and come to terms with the death of his younger brother that still haunts him years after the fact, he cycles all the way back to the creation of the universe and his days growing up with his two brothers in 1950s Waco, TX under his father’s strict rule and his mother’s loving care.

At least I think that’s what its about. All I know for certain is that it’s like 2001 mixed with Norman Rockwell, and that’s A-okay by me.

So after first seeing the trailer for this way back in October and flat-out crapping myself with anticipation over what looked like an experience that would render every movie ever made null and void, this one’s been a long time coming. I kinda did my homework by watching two phenomenal Malick movies in the lead-up to the big day, and while I’m sure that helped on a number of fronts, I don’t think a lifetime’s worth of preparation could have helped me to unravel this in just one sitting. With that being said, I still don’t think I’ve totally “got” it, but after mulling it over for a week and change, here’s what I’ve got:

This movie is epic in ways that will make you feel like a passing blip on the cosmic radar at times and like the singlemost important creation on this or any other planet at others. Like I said, it’s about a lot of different things that are utterly sprawling in scope and don’t seem to have much commonality at first glance, but putting together the pieces and coming to some kind of understanding over everything it lays on the table is what this is all about. And that’s great, that’s what I’ve come to expect from Terrence Malick and that’s one of many reasons why this guy is simply operating on another level. As for the other reasons, I’ll try to keep it brief ’cause this is the part where I start sounding like a broken record.

No one makes movies like this, no one makes movies that look this naturally gorgeous, and to call it “jaw-dropping” is to shortchange it to a fault. For a guy who’s never been one to manipulate natural beauty and has in turn showed us some of the most mind-blowing imagery in the history of film that could make anyone and everyone feel like they’ve never seen a sunset before, this movie and what it stands for is a culmination of everything that Malick’s ever stood for as a director. This seems like a movie that took absolutely forever to make, the only other director I know who does this good a job of dropping the audience into the lives of another family is John Cassavetes, and it’s insane how much ground and time it covers over the span of two hours and change. In short, the star of this movie is Terrence Malick right from square one, that’s the way it’s always been, and it’s really something to see.

It’s just incredible how he captures this simple, American nostalgia that we’ve lost over the years thanks to our ever-increasing reliance on technology that keeps us plugged in, pushes us away from each another, and distances us from the world around us. It’s playing kick the can with your neighborhood friends, is taking a bath with your little brother and making a beard out of bubbles, it’s drinking water from the hose, it’s the million different things that are synonymous with innocence and fade with age. Then you match all these scenes with this unbelievable score by Alexandre Desplat, and it’s tough not to get swept up in the whole thing. Really beautiful, really profound stuff that you takes you back in time and works a way better in motion than it does in text.

But before this love fest gets outta hand, the thing that has me going back and forth about The Tree of Life and almost made me give it a slightly lower Verdict is that, as easy as it is to admire this movie on so many levels that went above and beyond the hype, I wish there had been more of a personal connection for me. The funny thing is that this is about as universal as they come and that personal connection might have hit me like sledgehammer had I grown up with brothers and been born 30 years earlier. But even if that had been the case, since this movie is so much about Malick from top to bottom, it ultimately makes the characters feel secondary to the world around them.

Granted, maybe that’s the whole point, although for such authentic characters from a writer/director who’s given us some of the most realistic characters ever put to celluloid, it’s too bad that I couldn’t feel more empathetic. Not that that’s a gripe against the cast though, because they’re all pretty swell.

Brad Pitt couldn’t have been a more physically fitting match to play a red-blooded, tough-loving, all-American father, and he’s good even though it’s Jessica Chastain who steals the show as the understanding, affectionate mother. And props to first-timer Hunter McCracken (what a name) who does a fine job as young Jack, although Sean Penn doesn’t have a whole lot to do except look sad all the time and dish out some cryptic voiceovers as middle-aged Jack.

Geez, I could go on about The Tree of Life, but I’ll save the dissertation for another day since this is a movie that deserves a discussion rather than a rant. It isn’t an easy movie to “get” and it’d be hard to knock anyone for writing it off as pretentious, but keeping in mind that film makers just don’t get any more intentional and purposeful than Terrence Malick, there’s a whole lot to love and even more to dissect. Don’t go in looking for clear questions, clear answers or a firm grasp on what it’s even about or what’s going on, you’ll just end up disappointed. If you’re fine soaking it all in, drawing your own conclusions, and knowing full well that you’re gonna have to work this one out to make heads or tails out of it, it’s worth the effort.

But whatever you go in with and whatever you come out with, it’s a movie worth seeing and a movie worth praising not only as an unbelievable achievement from a technical standpoint, but as something that succeeds by being entirely different from the expected. And for a medium where predictability sells, it’s so effing great to see movies that march to the beat of their own drum.

152 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2011 12:15 am

    It’s a film like none other I’ve seen because of the scope it takes, even while it personalizes this very small life, it shows how it’s all just a blip in the grand scheme of things. I think that’s the most compelling and changing part of this film. It’s the bit I found the hardest to grapple with and I’m not sure if I agree with the way he presents it.

    Still, it’s a fantastic film, my least favorite Malick at this point, but his most ambitious work.

    Can’t wait to see it again.

    • June 14, 2011 9:17 am

      Haha. Definitely worth seeing more than once. Still like Badlands more, but I gotta say, think it might beat out Days of Heaven. Still need to revisit Thin Red Line and The New World though.

  2. June 14, 2011 7:42 am

    So Jealous that this is out in the States now. The UK has to wait for July 8th to roll around. Somehow, I have a feeling it will be worth the wait. Your 9/10 is a good sign.

  3. June 14, 2011 9:18 am

    Yeah, I don’t know what’s up with that delayed release date. Bad business, but definitely worth the wait. Looking forward to hearing what you think.

  4. June 14, 2011 10:34 am

    Well, any trailer that makes you flat-out crap yourself must be a picture worth seeing, right?


    Love it. Can’t wait to see this flick…thanks for the inspiration!


    • June 14, 2011 10:37 am

      Hahaha. Yeah, generally a swell rule of thumb to go by. Hope you like, it’s a trip alright.

      And thanks for dropping by!

  5. June 14, 2011 10:36 am

    I hadn’t heard of this movie till five minutes ago when I saw your post, but it sounds absolutely facinating… Can’t wait to see it now.

    Thanks for the great review and congrats on Freshly Pressed!

    • June 14, 2011 10:39 am

      Thanks! Yeah, it’s only playing in like four theaters right now in LA and NY, but I’m pretty sure it goes wide on July 8 or 9 (at least it does in the UK). Anyway, keep an eye out for it, pretty wild stuff.

      And thanks for stopping by!

    • June 14, 2011 3:01 pm

      Yeah, pretty much ditto.

      • June 14, 2011 3:03 pm

        I mean, ditto Beau Gamble. It’s totally inappropriate for me to thank someone else for stopping by your blog.

      • June 15, 2011 9:15 am

        Haha. No worries, all is forgiven. Hope you like the movie when it finally comes your way and thanks for stopping by!

  6. June 14, 2011 10:39 am

    I am really looking forward to this movie. Thanks for sharing your review.

    • June 14, 2011 10:40 am

      Thanks for reading, thanks for stopping by, and hope you dig the movie!

  7. beanbagfrog permalink
    June 14, 2011 10:40 am

    It’s all about how being white is sooooo haaaarrrd! Boo hoo white people.

  8. June 14, 2011 10:40 am

    Oh thank you for the write up. I usually avoid reviews because I feel things are given away. But you have written a great appreciation for this film. I already can’t wait to see it but now I’m really excited. Cinema nights are reserved for films like this. Well done on being freshly pressed!

    • June 14, 2011 10:43 am

      Thanks a ton! Not the most entertaining movie out there, but this is the kind of stuff that was made for the big screen. Hope you like it and thanks for stopping by!

  9. June 14, 2011 10:56 am

    cant wait till this film can reach indonesia
    we usually wait longer for new film/movie to come to our country, but its fine ^^
    thanks for the review, hope this great review really describes the film

    • June 14, 2011 11:38 am

      Thanks! Not sure why they’re releasing this so slowly, especially given the hype, but hope it gets there soon. And thanks for stopping by!

  10. June 14, 2011 11:30 am

    I’ve seen the movie in France (surprisingly enough we had the chance to watch a movie before the rest of the whole world, generally american movies come here 2~3 months later of their release dates, couldn’t solve why, but a stupid marketing strategy of french cinema industry i suppose, anyways..).
    I think it’s a hard movie to digest, about the evolution of life on our planet and how we’re skipping to see all these marvels surrounding us.
    I adore the performance of Jessica Chastain – can she get an oscar? :p (but can’t tell the same for Brad Pitt-wasn’t so surprising to me).
    I would love to have its DVD at home, cuz I think it’s not a cinema theatre movie, especially if you’re with your friends…not to spoil the movie but, the half an hour high resolution part, you know what I’m talking about, I loved there! but not everybody around me, so half of the cinema started to move around and blowed out my concentration, urgh…can’t wait to see the movie again on a saturday morning, full concentration lying down on my bed 🙂
    nice review!

    • June 14, 2011 11:41 am

      Hahahaha. Thanks, and I totally know what you mean about the half-hour resolution part. Must have heard three different people around me say “What’s going on?” out loud when that was happening. Definitely need to pay attention with this one, but it’s totally worth it in the long run. Way to see this one early and thanks for stopping by!

  11. June 14, 2011 11:44 am

    You made it to Freshly Pressed you lucky dog! Great review, and well done – its fully deserved. Always enjoy reading your site.

    I’m going to shamelessly drop my blog’s review of The Tree of Life in here in the hope of getting a few more hits: 😉

    All the best,

    • June 14, 2011 12:06 pm

      Haha. Thanks man, and go right ahead. Glad you dug the movie as much as I did, sure is a lot to think about.

  12. June 14, 2011 12:06 pm

    I’ll put it on the list of things to do in the next little while. Thanks for the heads up…:)

  13. June 14, 2011 12:15 pm

    really nice review 😀 I just posted my top ten films from the seventies

    • June 14, 2011 12:17 pm

      Thanks! And will check out that last, that was damn good decade for movies.

  14. June 14, 2011 12:25 pm

    Thank you for the review. Sounds like my type of movie, a great mind twister!

    • June 14, 2011 12:27 pm

      Haha. Yeah, that’s great way to put it. Hope you like it and thanks for stopping by!

  15. June 14, 2011 12:29 pm

    I live in the hinterlands and cannot wait to see this one. This is a great review because you give little if anything away, making the rest of us want to see this movie. Congrats on being freshly pressed.

    • June 14, 2011 12:36 pm

      Thanks! And what’s the point in spoilers, right? One of many movies (or better yet, every movie) that’s that much better if you go in blind. Does help to check out some Malick movies beforehand though. Hope you like it!

  16. June 14, 2011 12:47 pm

    Such a great cast- based on your review here- I am intrigued. Will check it out when it opens here in UK.

    • June 14, 2011 12:52 pm

      Do it to it, definitely worth a go and it’ll be in theaters before you know it. Hope you like it and thanks for stopping by!

  17. thepenciledone permalink
    June 14, 2011 1:04 pm

    Thanks for the amazing review! I’ve been waiting to see this since October as well with the first trailer that came out. I still haven’t seen it yet, but with reviews like this it satisfies my curiosity for just a little bit longer.

    I like what you mentioned about the scope because that is exactly what this movie is about the scope of Existence and Life, yet though that can expand the universe it all comes back to the human souls that struggle together in life.

    • June 14, 2011 1:09 pm

      Thanks and well said! You hit the nail on the head with that last sentence. This one definitely had a lot of anticipation going for it, and it very much delivered in terms of giving us something we’ve never seen before. Thanks for stopping by and hope you dig the movie!

  18. Gino permalink
    June 14, 2011 1:32 pm

    I must admit that “Tree of Life” was a bit much to grasp, at first. I walked away with a different view of the movie than I had when the Big Bang scene was inserted, almost questionably. I thoroughly appreciated the way the movie was told through motion and subliminally through emotion versus constant dialogue. It made the movie that much more engaging.

    • June 15, 2011 9:17 am

      Oh yeah, the movie definitely evolves from one thing into another as it goes from the Big Bang scene onwards. Loved all the motion too, really made the movie feel alive. That’s Terrence Malick for ya’.

      And thanks for stopping by!

  19. June 14, 2011 1:48 pm

    YAY!!! WordPress homepage love. Good job Aidano!

    • June 14, 2011 1:49 pm

      Hahaha. Thanks, man. Haven’t seen you around these parts for ages! How you been?

      • June 14, 2011 6:46 pm

        I been good. yeah, sorry we Rosses have disappeared lately, we’re trying to be better. we really are.

  20. CClearwater permalink
    June 14, 2011 2:01 pm

    Living near Cannes in France, where the film was presented during the Festival in May, I got the chance to see it three weeks ago.
    Everybody in the cinema was exceptionally quiet throughout the whole movie – appreciated ! – and had that puzzled look on their faces when we left the room – just like me. What exactly did we just see ?
    Well, your review as well as some of the comments cleared up many of the things I saw and did not understand. THANK YOU. I also agree on most of the points: outstanding Jessica Chastain, mindblowing imagery, phantastic score.
    I suppose, I must do my homework now and watch other movies by Terence Malick…

    • June 15, 2011 9:20 am

      Wow, you saw this in Cannes? At the Cannes Film Festival? If so, THAT IS AWESOME! Word on the street is that there were as many boos as there were cheers, but that’s a hell of a way to see it either way. And, yeah, that was the same look on everyone’s face when we left the theater, too.

      And definitely check out Malick’s other stuff, dude’s only got four other movies anyway. I say start with Badlands.

      Thanks for the kind words and thanks for stopping by!

  21. June 14, 2011 2:02 pm

    I appreciated the imagery, the connections to nature and the universe, the concept of nature vs. grace, the family dynamics, and the lack of dialogue…but I walked out of that theather not knowing that director’s purpose and confused by the lack of cohesion between the different parts and I felt it was longer than necessary. I’m thoughtful, enjoy thinking about the “big picture,” and like obscure films, but I personally thought this one was too “out there”…the connection between the National Geographic-like footage and a normal family didn’t click for me (although I suppose the point is to encourage that type of thinking – how we’re all interrelated to the world around us). I also felt too many things were left hanging and never explained (For example, why did they mention a brother dying at 19 and not mention it again?). Thanks for the review – in seeing anothing opinion, I think I understand it a bit better. Keep up the good work and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    • June 15, 2011 9:25 am

      Thanks! I totally hear you about scratching your head over what this was trying to say or what was even happening. But by the same token, I don’t think you’re supposed to walk out of this with a clear understanding. A big reason I liked it so much is because it had me constantly thinking about those questions during the movie and long after I left. Maybe I’m just tired of movies that spell everything out for the audience, but this was a refreshing challenge and the payoff was worth it even though I still don’t have a lot of it straight. But, again, I hear ya’.

      And as for the brother, I think Sean Penn forgetting the memory of his brother was sort of the catalyst for everything that follows and why he cycles back through the beginning of time, to distance himself from the manufactured world and reconnect with the earthly, deeply personal one. I hear ya’ though, lot of stuff open to interpretation here, but that’s my take.

      And thanks for stopping by!

  22. June 14, 2011 2:24 pm

    Sounds like a great movie. I’ll definitely check it out.

    • June 15, 2011 9:26 am

      It’s something else alright. Hope you do, hope you like it, and thanks for stopping by!

  23. June 14, 2011 2:53 pm

    Damn, I really need to check this out. Congrats on making the front page, man.

    • June 14, 2011 2:56 pm

      Thanks! Yeah, it’s a trip, dude. Def give it a look when you can.

  24. June 14, 2011 3:48 pm

    Fabulous review! I’m bummed. I could have seen that the other night and instead saw Super 8. Total thumbs down.

    • June 14, 2011 4:28 pm

      Hahaha. Sorry Super 8 was a letdown, I thought it was pretty fun, but I’ve been hearing a whole lot of back-and-forth on it since. Still, this is about as different from that as you can get, so that’s a good sign! Thanks for stopping by and hope you dig the movie!

  25. June 14, 2011 4:28 pm

    Interesting perspective. Can’t wait to check it out now!

  26. June 14, 2011 5:01 pm

    I’m looking forward to watching this during the run of the 16th French Film Festival here in the Philippines.

    • June 15, 2011 9:27 am

      That right there sounds like one hell of a film festival. Hope you dig it and thanks for stopping by!

  27. June 14, 2011 5:22 pm

    I’m glad I read this because I was wondering about going to see it.

    • June 15, 2011 9:29 am

      Happy to help, and love it or hate it, it’s definitely worth a watch. Hope you check it out and thanks for stopping by!

  28. June 14, 2011 5:25 pm

    Before reading your review, I was thinking about seeing this movie; after reading it, decision made–seeing, definitely seeing!

    • June 15, 2011 9:30 am

      Hahaha. Right on! Hope you like it and thanks for stopping by!

  29. June 14, 2011 5:26 pm

    Beautiful ass movie film.

  30. June 14, 2011 5:48 pm

    Happy to read that you greatly enjoyed this movie. It’s definitely not a film for everyone but indeed, it will literally leave those who appreciate it speechless. You are right that one could talk about The Tree of Life for hours on end, it’s such a rich and at times inscrutable work of art. Wonderful review sir!

    Check out my review someday Aiden 😉

    • June 15, 2011 9:32 am

      Thanks, man. And of course I’ll check out your review, you’re the one who’s been talking about this movie since last Summer and indirectly introduced me to Malick in the first place. So thank you, good sir, and glad to hear it didn’t disappoint.

      And congrats on being the most prolific LAMB, yo!

  31. June 14, 2011 6:10 pm

    Finally, a movie I am excited to go see – thanks for the review and congratulations on being FP

    • June 15, 2011 9:33 am

      Thanks and anytime! Glad to see the word is spreading, hope it’s not a letdown, and thanks for stopping by!

  32. June 14, 2011 6:46 pm

    The review is alive, throbbing rather than being cold and academic. Sure to gain sympathy for the movie.

    • June 15, 2011 9:35 am

      Wow, thanks! Not often I have the pleasure of someone finding my reviews to be “throbbing,” and that’s a damn shame.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  33. June 14, 2011 6:48 pm

    Freshly Pressed Dawg… movie reviewers NEVER get Freshly pressed. Nice one! (Blog hits go up x1,000,000)

    Being from the UK we have to wait an age to see this beast so trying to steer clear of any reviews… 😦

    • June 15, 2011 9:36 am

      Hahaha. Thanks, man, and you ain’t kidding about the blog hits. Crazy.

      And don’t you worry, man. July 8 will be here before you know it.

  34. June 14, 2011 7:03 pm

    Thank you! I am wrought with anticipation and you just made it worse!

    • June 15, 2011 9:37 am

      Haha. Your welcome? Well hope you like the movie, definitely warrants the excitement, and thanks for stopping by!

  35. Darren permalink
    June 14, 2011 7:04 pm

    Congrats on the Freshly Pressedness.

    @ Para: They do occasionally pick film bloggers – for some feckin’ reason (I can’t understand) they pressed my Tron Legacy review. But yep, it’s awesome. And I feel kinda guilty, because THIS is what a Freshedly Press post should look like.

    @ Aidan: Great review, man. Like Para, waiting for the UK/Ireland release.

    • June 15, 2011 9:39 am

      Haha. Thanks, man. And I totally remember when your TRON review got picked up, and if I’m not mistaken, it got picked up on a Friday which means it stayed up all weekend. Doesn’t get any sweeter than that and it was a bitchin’ review to boot.

      And July 8 will be here in no time.

  36. June 14, 2011 7:37 pm

    Great review. Agree that there was a lack of personal connection in the film. I get that we’re seeing the grand scope of life and the universe, but we’re still just humans in the audience, and we need a story or a character to connect to. The movie was astoundingly beautiful, however, though, yes, very difficult to write a strict review for. I try to keep reviews and analysis posts separate, but I found it almost impossible in this film. How are you supposed to review such a nontraditional film? I think you did a great job with that challenge here. Congrats on FP!

    • June 15, 2011 10:24 am

      Thanks, man! Much appreciated. Yeah, not an easy task to sum this movie up in any way shape or form, but still a movie that deserves to be praised and talked about until you’re blue in the face. Absolutely gorgeous, but I hear ya’, wish there had been that one character to grasp on to. Thanks for stopping by and don’t be a stranger!

  37. June 14, 2011 8:27 pm

    Nice review. I’ll likely wait for the DVD. Sounds too awesome for one viewing.
    How high falutin’ is that? Actually I just like to watch Brad Pitt over and over and over…oh yeah ladies out there, like you don’t!
    But do tell does the totem fall???
    It actually sounds like a movie that is quite pretentious. But as I said, Brad Pitt, always good.

    • June 15, 2011 10:22 am

      Haha. As long as you see it, you’re doing yourself a favor, but this is honestly one that deserves the big screen treatment. And that way Brad Pitt will be enormous! YAY!

      And can’t knock you or anyone else for thinking it pretentious, just can’t quite bring myself to get on the level since Malick is so damn good and films with so much freakin’ intent. Idk, maybe I’ve just been watching too much Malick.

      Anywho, hope you see it, hope you dig it, and thanks for stopping by!

  38. chocolatespacemonkey permalink
    June 14, 2011 8:55 pm

    Is this move out already? I’ve been a Terrence Malick fan since Badlands. I am most anxious!

    • June 15, 2011 10:19 am

      Yeah, it came out in NYC and LA a couple weeks ago but doesn’t go wide until July 8 or something. But if you’re a Malick fan (LOVE Badlands), definitely get excited. Thanks for stopping by, man, and love your handle.

  39. Anulfo permalink
    June 14, 2011 9:02 pm

    Loved this! Malick is one of my all time favorite filmmakers! What he does with his visuals delights everyone of our senses, truly breathtaking! I went to see this work of art (it is indeed a work of art, nothing short of it) when it opened here in Boston a couple of weeks ago and was really blown away. Ok, I wasn’t blown away because I expected that out of Malick, but there were a couple of people in the theatre that didn’t really get it and started texting during the film. Towards the end, one of them said “Gosh, that was unbearable.” I guess they didn’t even have a clue who Malick is. 🙂

    • June 15, 2011 10:18 am

      Hahahaha. It seriously helps to give yourself a Malick refresher course before going into this ’cause a handful of people sitting around me kept saying “Is this the movie?” and “What’s going on?” Hard to blame ’em, but still, so freakin’ gorgeous, huh? Glad to hear you’re in Club Malick though, more people need to join up.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  40. amyymburns permalink
    June 14, 2011 10:06 pm

    I am dying to see this movie! Will make sure to come back and read your take on it after I do. You seem to have some pretty good insights.

    • June 15, 2011 10:16 am

      Haha. Thanks, and I’m the same way with reading reviews. Looking forward to hear what you think and thanks for stopping by!

  41. June 14, 2011 10:31 pm

    Uh, are there 60 comments on this post? Aiden, you’re big time. Shoot.

    I thought this film was pretty darn personal. It had so many beautiful and detailed moments that I’ll bet were memories of Malick’s: the negligee scene, the guy in crutches, young Jack balancing the meatloaf on his fork, Pitt calling for his son to fetch him his lighter. Man this film was just gorgeous and thought-provoking.

    • June 15, 2011 10:02 am

      Hahaha. Dude, this is bonkers. I’ve been Freshly Pressed before, but if this keeps up it’s gonna get to my head. NOW BE MY SLAVE!

      And as for the movie, it’s crazy how personal it is, especially when you consider that Malick grew up in Waco in the ’50s. Loved those little moments that all felt like personal anecdotes, like they were lived rather than recreated, also love how many of them there were. God, so freakin’ good.

      As gorgeous and thought-provoking as they come.

  42. June 14, 2011 10:51 pm

    In Italy we love this movie. It’s an experience of imagination before than a simple movie…

    • June 15, 2011 10:05 am

      You bet it is. Wouldn’t call it a simple movie either, but simplicity definitely runs through it. Glad to hear Italy is on board and thanks for stopping by!

  43. June 14, 2011 11:18 pm

    Looking forward to seeing it – not a big Norman Rockwell-style fan, but it sounds more like Norman Rockwell with an edge. Thanks for the review!

    • June 15, 2011 10:07 am

      Sure thing! Yeah, it’s more like the darker side of Norman Rockwell, like if the pictures came to life and you got to see behind the white picket fence. Hope you check it out and thanks for stopping by!

  44. honestabel permalink
    June 15, 2011 12:04 am

    Why don’t you make like a tree and get outta here?!?!

    • June 15, 2011 10:09 am

      Haha. Oh, Biff…

      Thanks for stopping by and awesome review, man. “Two words: Harper Lee” – awesome. Badlands is a hard one to beat, still my favorite Malick movie.

      • honestabel permalink
        June 15, 2011 11:33 am


        Enjoy reading your reviews – great Fresh Press find.

      • June 15, 2011 11:50 am

        Thanks, appreciate that! Thanks for dropping by and LOVE your Gravatar. One of the best horror movies ever made, Mia Farrow was effing amazing in that.

  45. June 15, 2011 12:09 am

    I would love for this to be somewhere near me. Anywhere near me. Great review, Aiden!

    • June 15, 2011 10:10 am

      Haha. Thanks, man. One of these days it’ll make it’s way out of LA and NY. One of these days…

  46. perpetuallyfrank permalink
    June 15, 2011 12:15 am

    Congrats on getting freshly pressed. And excellent review. The trailer for Tree of Life was interesting but not quite enough to hook me. You definitely paint an intriguing picture, though. As a film scholar, reading your review has left me feeling obligated to see this movie as soon as I can.

    • June 15, 2011 10:15 am

      Thanks and thanks! I was hooked like a trout after seeing the trailer, but yeah, “intriguing” is the word even if it didn’t do much for ya’. Hope you give it a shot though and let me know what you think when you do. Definitely an experience that’d be a shame to miss.

      And thanks for stopping by!

  47. June 15, 2011 1:20 am

    They need to freakin’ show the movie at the theatre next to my house. I don’t care if it’s shown at 2am, I’ll watch it. I’ll bring my blankets. And coffee. Knowing Malick… Coffee.

    • June 15, 2011 9:57 am

      Hahaha. You get the hell down there and tell those fools what’s up. IDIOTS!

  48. June 15, 2011 2:27 am

    Great review. Being a Malick fan myself, can’t wait to watch it in Turkey.

    • June 15, 2011 9:56 am

      Thanks! Malick really is the man, huh? Hope it gets there soon and thanks for stopping by!

  49. June 15, 2011 2:31 am

    i like this movie review, as it pointed out a lot of things that is worth pondering. i need to see this film and see some parallelisms in my poetry. if so, then terrence malick is my favorite director.

    • June 15, 2011 9:55 am

      Haha. Thanks, and I’m sure you’ll be able to draw some connections out of this.

      And thanks for stopping by!

  50. June 15, 2011 2:34 am

    Great review, looks interesting!

  51. June 15, 2011 4:14 am

    Alright, I have to ask the question that’s been burning on my mind ever since seeing the movie a few days ago: what the heck was up with the dinosaurs?! I could at least see what they were going for with the other obscure images, but I am totally at a loss for the prehistoric animal footage.

    • June 15, 2011 9:52 am

      Hahahaha. I think that’s the #1 question on everyone’s mind. My best guess is that it was some kind of foreshadowing in reference to young Jack and his dad’s relationship (like how the raptor walks away instead of finishes the job), but that’s all I’ve got. Wish I had some more insight on the matter, but I haven’t even come close to unraveling this one. Let me know if you come up with anything, ’cause I am all ears.

      And thanks for stopping by!

  52. Andrés permalink
    June 15, 2011 4:31 am

    Are you authorized to post this frames Mr. Aiden R.?

    • June 15, 2011 9:48 am

      Not sure what “frames” is, but I say YES. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Andrés permalink
        June 15, 2011 9:59 am

        I mean the photos.

        And I agree with you.

        Thanks for replying to my comment and posting this nice review.

      • June 15, 2011 10:03 am

        Haha, anytime, really appreciate the comment. Yeah, I don’t know about the photos, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. Let’s keep it our little secret for now. Blood brothers forever!

  53. June 15, 2011 5:30 am


  54. June 15, 2011 6:55 am

    This sounds amazing, I’ve not seen it so thanks for the “heads-up”.

    That still of the woman walking into the horizon is just so evocative.

    • June 15, 2011 9:47 am

      Gorgeous, right? The whole movie’s like that and it’ll blow you away. Hope you check it out and thanks for stopping by!

  55. June 15, 2011 7:22 am

    after reading your post i am more than curious to watch this movie

    • June 15, 2011 9:46 am

      Haha. Yeah, even if I wanted to, it’s hard to give away specifics with this one. Curious indeed. Hope you check it out and thanks for stopping by!

  56. June 15, 2011 9:11 am

    Thank you for writing the review and also explained the movie a bit, I saw it, it’s certainly not an easy to understand movie

    • June 15, 2011 9:44 am

      Haha. No, it definitely isn’t, but that’s why it’s great. Thanks for stopping by!

  57. June 15, 2011 9:18 am

    It’s hard to find quality movies that moves you, that relates to your life. Thanks for finding us one. Your review gave this movie the credit it deserves and making it a must movie to watch. Congrats

    • June 15, 2011 9:40 am

      Thanks! The credit really goes to Malick for giving us something worth finding, just happy to help spread the word. And thanks for stopping by!

  58. June 15, 2011 10:23 am

    This movie sounds wonderful! Thanks for such a great review. I’m looking forward to seeing it!

    • June 15, 2011 10:25 am

      Thanks! Yeah, it’s a trip alright and one that’s definitely worth seeing. Hope you like it and thanks for stopping by!

  59. June 15, 2011 4:59 pm

    I must see this movie, it looks interesting.

    • June 16, 2011 3:28 pm

      Haha. Do it to it, “interesting” is the word. Hope you like it and thanks for stopping by!

  60. June 16, 2011 9:40 pm

    Aiden – holy crap – is this a record number of comments for you!? All I have to say is that this film fits the bill of “a film to talk about” like a glove! I loved it. And I love all the chatter here (and your, as usual, no nonsense review).

    Naturally, I have my own spin:

    • June 17, 2011 9:02 am

      Haha. Thanks, and yeah, this got Freshly Pressed a couple days ago and the masses went NUTS! Sucker needs to get a wide release already.

  61. June 19, 2011 12:41 pm

    check out my new review

  62. June 20, 2011 10:21 am

    Thanks, Nice topic man.

  63. realanonymousgirl2011 permalink
    June 22, 2011 1:21 am

    I have yet to see this movie but I have a feeling I’d be disappointed. The cinematography sounds wonderful and I’m sure if I watched it for the creation of this world I may be satisfied. But I’m finding that more and more movies can start a story and carry it through making you want only more then destroy the whole effect because they can’t wrap it up. I don’t want to be left hanging, I want an ending. Otherwise I feel its a cop-out.
    But thank you for the wonderful review and maybe I will at least put it on my list!

    • June 22, 2011 12:00 pm

      Haha. Well in that case, I’d say rent it. Since there is a ton of hype and since the whole movie is awfully open-ended, that also leaves a lot of room for disappointment. All the same, this is a movie everyone ought to experience.

      And thanks for stopping by!

  64. Lemon Meringue Copter permalink
    June 27, 2011 9:54 am

    Was there some deep meaning here – or after conning the movie studio is Malick laughing all the way to the bank …hijacking clips from the Discovery Channel, NASA and National Geographic, setting them to music, interspersing some home videos and every once in awhile having someone whisper something like “where are you?”. I gave Malick the benefit of the doubt on his sincerity and upon leaving the theater did not ask for my money back (I understand many people have however). The one good thing I can say about this movie is it does make you think.

  65. Jeremy permalink
    July 10, 2011 12:35 am

    I’ve been an artist my whole life and I’ve even shot some high end TV commercials and short films and have a few awards under my belt for my creative film work. I guess I’m the type of person that likes a simple story with good acting. Effects and visuals just help the artist tell the story. I totally agree that the acting and the cinematography was beautiful and amazing and the story was told well with emotions and quick snippets instead of the normal full dialog flick, but honestly I couldn’t stand sitting through this movie. It took all I had inside of me to make it through this film. The minute dinosaurs were introduced I started to get bored. I love being able to think and form my own thoughts about a movie but as well I like to hear and see the point of view from the artist that’s telling me their story. I felt like this was a creative masturbation movie. Filming random things for the sake of it just doesn’t help me. for instance, how many underwater shots are you going to show me to prove something. Stop whispering constantly throughout the movie. I could barely make out half the dialog. Some may see this as a creative break through in cinema story telling. By 40 minutes I was hanging on for my sanity and doing my best to keep from falling a sleep.

    • July 10, 2011 10:33 pm

      Hahaha. Yeah, it’s hard to argue any of your points, especially “creative masturbation”. Could definitely sense that “What the fuck is going on and why am I watching this” vibe in the crowd, and while I was definitely bordering on that when the dinosaurs came up, what can I say, I have a thing for movies I can’t stop thinking about. And damn was it gorgeous.

      Great comment and thanks for stopping by, man!

  66. James permalink
    July 11, 2011 3:51 am

    That’s just the David Lynch in everyone. If I make a film that is weird enough than it can be seen as “above criticism”.
    No real dialogue to be judged, no real scene to be orchestrated, no real acting to be directed and everyone is going to eat it up and call it brilliant.
    “Creative Masterbation” … Indeed.

    • July 12, 2011 8:38 am

      Oh, it’s definitely not above criticism in the least and I can’t knock anyone for calling it out as bullshit. Couldn’t help but like it though, dinosaurs and all. Still a long shot from Badlands though.

  67. July 12, 2011 1:52 am

    What a lovely pile of pseudo artistic dog shit!

    • July 12, 2011 8:33 am

      Haha. Definitely liked it more than you did, but can totally understand the statement. Dinosaurs. Thanks for stopping by!

  68. joe permalink
    January 5, 2012 2:55 pm

    What a pile of dogshit

  69. February 12, 2012 11:59 am

    Absolutely beautiful film…I’m so sad that I’d already watched this before I started my blog, because I know I could have gone on forever about this film too.

    Amazing review =)

    • March 23, 2012 11:50 am

      Thanks! Glad you liked it so much, exhausted by how many folks went in the other direction. At least we know what’s up!

  70. February 20, 2012 4:06 am

    I absolutely love how divisive this movie is. I’ve never heard the word “pretentious” thrown about more in my life than in reading the responses online.

    I’ve been a Malick fan ever since I saw Thin Red Line, which I remember being slightly divisive itself.

    My take on the dinosaurs and the creation of the universe stuff: I believe Malick was going for a “now hold on s0n, shit ain’t so bad just cause one of your kids died, look at the fearsome destructive power of the universe in all of its glory, and the suffering that’s been the norm for billions of years, and how grace somehow finds itself in it all”. That’s just what I got out of it.

    • March 23, 2012 11:54 am

      Yeah, it’s a been a struggle defending this one alright, but I will continue to do so.

      Saw Badlands for the first time last Summer and it knocked my socks off, so you are preaching to the choir, brotha’.

      And that is an awesome interpretation of the dinosaurs. My take was that it was a metaphor for the relationship between Brad Pitt and his sons, that everything’s kinda connected across generations and across species. Not sure if that makes any sense, but that’s what’s so great about The Tree of Life.

      • March 23, 2012 1:33 pm

        To the final sentence – indeed. It isn’t quite a Rorschach test, but it’s just enough abstraction to have an open enough interpretation that people treat it like a Rorschach test. Malick’s background in Heidegger’s philosophy is somewhat instrumental in understanding him as an artist. It isn’t the key to unlock his films per se, but it brings you into his orbit.

      • March 23, 2012 1:48 pm

        I know absolutely nothing about Heidegger, so thank you for the heads up. Will do my homework before his next movie.

  71. motaki permalink
    August 13, 2012 9:07 pm

    i just wasted 2 hours of my life. i want my tree back.

    cinematography was impressive.

    • August 15, 2012 4:01 pm

      Hahaha. That seems to be the general consensus these days. Glad you could appreciate the cinematography though, which was stunning.


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