Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Tree of Life (2011)

Yes I am horrifically late in watching The Tree of Life. But I've finally had the chance to see it at the local, independent cinema and here is my review regardless.

Running Time: 139 mins
Directed By: Terrence Malick
Starring:  Sean Penn, Brad Pitt , Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken
Screenplay: Terrence Malick
UK Release Date: 8th July - UK

Quick Plot: On the anniversary of his brother's death, Jack looks back on his life as a child, focusing on his relationship with his parents as he questions the importance of life.

Review: With talks of that big important 'O word' surrounding The Tree Of Life I was deeply intrigued by the film.
Let's get one thing straight; The Tree Of Life is not for everyone. I have proof, as a total of seven people left the screening (I was sitting on the edge as it's set out is like a theatre so I noticed) and at the end a group of women cheered and shouted 'thank goodness that's over'- which angers me anyway because they must have known the film wasn't going to be straight forward. It got booed at the Cannes by the non-critics and I can kind of see why so I'd say about 20% of people would like it as it's extremely different to the norm and I guess it's tedious. The way that Malick runs together his shots is quite unusual in comparison to films on a wider scale so this can cause a discomfort for some people, but for others like me I found it curious and exciting.
I've never seen a Terrence Malick film before (I know it's bad but I'm working on it) so I didn't know quite what to expect other than seeing the trailer and hearing the excellent reviews. The film begins with a narrator, who we later learn is the Mother (Jessica Chastain), reading a quote from the bible "Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation ... while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?". And quite obviously the film as a whole endeavours to this quote. A change of time brings us to Jack's life in the present and we soon learn it is the anniversary of his brothers death. As the film continues there are flashes between the creation of life in an absolutely stunning montage of sequences, the life Jack had as a child with his two younger brothers and parents and quick glances on this day that Jack is looking back at his life. I don't believe any of that is too confusing. I mean, of course any film is confusing with a continual change of time from flashbacks to current but that's what makes some films so interesting- Tree Of Life especially. In the sequences of the start of life in bright colours, beautifully glamorous shots and a fantastic score, it reminded me lot of Fantasia. Even though I enjoyed the other parts of the film, I would not have minded watching these sequences for two hours as the visuals combined with the score was breathtaking.
However the other part of the narrative, the main plot between the family, from when the boys are born to watching them grow older, were undoubtedly my favourite. Before I speak about the truly fantastic performances by the younger cast, I've first got to obviously mention the others. Brad Pitt is probably going to get the most recognition for his role as the Father around awards season which is completely deserved. Without a big built up storyline, you only see what you see, as silly as that sounds. Appearing ruthless, Pitt's character of the boy's father shows all the signs of love when they are young whilst they grow up he becomes firmer and stricter which of course the boys would rather go without. Yet Pitt develops the character as far as he can with Malick's confounding story, showing the signs of love and appreciation of the boys but foolishly letting his personal failures inflict his sons. Chastain too is marvellous, speaking the most when she's narrating she plays a perfect contrast to Pitt, the graceful and caring Mother of the boys. It deeply pains you when you hear her cries over her lost son because of her psychical acting with the younger actors. Sean Penn too is great but doesn't have the screen time to be noted as fantastic though we know he has it to be, his character of Jack is nothing compared with the deeper narrative. The three young lads, most importantly Hunter McCracken as young Jack, are all truly flawless. With very little to each of their names they put on a great front, most of the time not having much dialogue their characters are shown purely through their actions. It seems effortless their fixed bond deep within each other as brothers but at the same time they're being kids because that is their role. You only know their names and hardly that. There is no specific age other than when the middle brother dies and you only know they're located in America. You don't know much about them at all but after the first hour of the film you connect with young Jack which I think is all down to the music, mastered shots and McCracken's performance.
With the main focus of the narrative being the loss of one of the brothers, the pain is a heartbreaking journey through the lives of this family and life on Earth; how we came to be and how graceful the world is.

The Tree Of Life is simply beautiful. It makes you think about your own life and others in a way that's unique in films. It's not for everyone.


The Tree of Life trailer
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