Written and Directed by Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line), “The Tree of Life” begins with a middle aged corporate man, Jack (Sean Penn), who is seen felling lost while questioning the existence of faith, life and other such things. He takes us through a series of beautifully shot montages of his past and present.
His past includes his childhood years with his parents Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien (Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain) and his 2 younger brothers. The film follows Jack’s life journey through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father. The film however is not a narrative. There no semblance of continuity as it switches from ambitious visuals of everything from erupting volcanoes to prehistoric creatures to a complicated 1950’s family life. It switches from visuals of natural calamities to a small Texan neighborhood and back to dramatic waterfalls and then back to the sun shining through the corporate floors. Yes, it’s very very ambitious, very very ambiguous and clearly a very very personal interpretation of the director’s vision. Either you’ll get it or you won’t.
“The Tree of Life” is visually stunning, but dreadfully it’s beyond anybody’s grasp. Time, place and continuity go for a toss and are replaced by sheer alien randomness. Yet, it manages to be visually and aesthetically beautiful. With spectacular music, breathtaking visuals and rock solid performances, “The Tree of Life” is highly surreal and one has to have a voracious appetite for experimental films to digest this one.
Verdict: It’s like a Rorschach test – you see what you want to see. It’s open to your interpretation. There’s no easy way to tell if you’ll like it or not. Take the risk, go watch it. You never know.