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The Tree of Life

Written and directed by Terrence Malick

Starring: Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler.


138 minutes (PG)

Reviewed by Tara Burton, community liaison officer of the communications unit of the Uniting Church in Queensland.

Director Terrence Malick is well known for his unconventional storylines and his new film Tree of Life is no exception.

Starring Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn, Tree of Life follows the trials and tribulations of a 1950s Texan family.

The narrative also explores the stark contrast of the modern world of businessman Jack (Penn) in his adult years.

Jack is situated in a sky rise building where he daydreams about his turbulent childhood and he struggles with the pain of losing his younger brother, who died in his teenage years.

Brad Pitt does a superb job playing the aggressive and violent father.

Whilst young Jack (played by Hunter McCracken) was also impressive in his role of the disturbed and confused young boy, who consequently despises his father yet becomes more and more like him.

Initially the storyline is intriguing, however the film takes an unexpected turn when it attempts to also tackle in-depth and complex themes such as the “big bang”.

Whilst following the journey of a family in turmoil the film also explores the birth and life of Earth, with a sci-fi and surreal undertone.

During these parts the cinematography and special effects were unique and interesting.

Although, I felt that they lacked relevance in developing the plot.

The dizzying array of themes and concepts left me feeling confused and underwhelmed.

The storyline was also non-linear and fragmented, therefore making it difficult to follow.

The film focuses more on the visual element rather then a coherent and easy to follow storyline.

A high point of the film is the classical score that accompanies the visual imagery.

The film concludes with scenes from what appears to be heaven as the characters re-connected with their loved ones.

This film is not for everyone, but if you enjoy art, imagery and unconventional narratives then Tree of Life may be for you.