In a nutshell, The Tree of Life tells the story of a small Texan family whose world is shattered when one of their members dies. In the film, the dead boy’s mother is described as Grace – calm, nurturing and patient – and his father (Brad Pitt) is Nature. Nature is the opposite to Grace; rough uncompromising, and willing to step on any one who gets in his way. While the story is essentially a microscopic look at this family, it is also the macro – a look at the universe, it’s formation and how Nature and Grace came to be. That’s where the dinosaurs come in.
To tell you anything else about the plot would be to do you a disservice. The film is lyrical, poetic and visually stunning. In order to tell the story of the world coming into being, Malick had to use some pretty engaging images, which are all put together in a way that is not dissimilar to Koyaanisquatsi, with a bit of 2001: A Space Odyssey thrown in for good measure. Music and image blend together in a way that leaves the audience asking themselves questions about life, the universe and everything… To quote Douglas Adams.
The film is expressed through the visual, rather than the dialogue. For me, it was more about how I felt about the film than what I thought about it, if that makes any sense. The visuals of the film are just spectacular, and the best advice I can give is to not try and think about it, but to just let the film wash over you.
Brad Pitt, as always, is incredible in his role as Mr O’Brien. It is a change for him to play a character that is not quite evil, but ruthless and tough – especially towards his children. Jessica Chastain is haunting as Mrs O’Brien and her gentle and nurturing character is the perfect foil for Pitt’s more abrasive one. The acting is mostly through glances and the feeling surrounding the character rather than lines of dialogue spoken, but this allows the audience to come to realisations about the characters at about the same time they do. We are in it with them and they are with us.
The Tree of Life is definitely a Marmite film; you are either going to love it or you are going to hate it. Critics are already calling the movie pretentious and self absorbed, but I loved it. I recommend that you ignore the reviews, and make your own mind up.
The Tree of Life Trailer