The Tree of Life; drama, USA, 2011; D: Terrence Malick, S: Hunter McCracken, Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn, Laramie Eppler, Fiona Shaw
In the modern day, Jack O'Brien works in a big city, but remembers his childhood in the rural area in the 60s. As a kid, he and his two brothers had a very good mother who was full of understanding, but their father was strict and would pick on them for the smallest incident. Jack became rebellious, while his father lost his job and the family had to relocate for a new job. At the age of 19, Jack's brother was found dead. Back in present, Jack contemplates about the world and walks on a beach, where he meets his family again.
Even though it won the Golden Palm in Cannes, the long awaited fifth film by Terrence Malick, "The Tree of Life" is an uneven art-film and a fake masterwork. After three excellent films in a row—"Badlands", "Days of Heaven" and "The Thin Red Line"— Malick, carried away by the beauty of nature, started to loose his tight grip and wondered off in too many random directions in "The New World", but in "The Tree of Life" he almost reached the level of attention deficit disorder: there is no clear storyline, this is thousands of pictures in search for a film. In one scene, the boys are playing on the street, in the next they are eating lunch, in the next there are scenes of boys washing their feet on the sprinklers, then a tree is shown, and then grass...There are simply too many random scenes that do not connect and seem all over the place. The cinematography is fantastic, the actors are fantastic, but a more clear narrative would have been more welcomed than the too abstract (and overlong) shape of the film which aggravates the viewers' access to it—even from an emotional perspective, it is strangely vague and scattered. This is basically a simple story—a young boy and his relationship with his strict father —and there was no need to turn it into over two hours of artistic 'showing off' (the interesting, but overall thin inclusion of a ponderous 15-minute regression of the history of life on Earth, from the creation of microorganisms to the scenes of four dinosaurs, signalling the first rudimentary development of compassion). One could argue that the theme is that there were always troubles for living beings on Earth, from dinosaurs up to humans, yet overall, they all do not amount to a (better) point.