Director: Terrence Mallick
Screenplay: Terrence Mallick
Cast: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler and Tue Sheridan.
(Quick note: the comments section is just under the title of the post)
Terrence Mallick is well known for being methodical, patient and philosophical. His work is polarizing to say the least; some say he is just pretentious, whilst others state he is merely an intelligent director who enjoys exploring complex themes. I would have to side with the latter, it’s difficult not to be mesmerised by the beauty of this film.
Jack O’ Brien (played as an adult by Sean Penn) reflects on his life and his upbringing on the anniversary of his brother’s death. His upbringing is told through flashbacks and we see his relationships with authoritarian, complex father (Brad Pitt) and his loving mother (Jessica Chastin)
Tree of Life is an extremely hypnotic film, you will find yourself in a trance on more than one occasion. The frequent voice-overs in whispers and the captivating cinematography help induce this trance. Not pleased by the look of CGI director Terrence Mallick approached experienced special effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull, who was responsible for the visual effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner. Trumbull’s skills show that CGI is not needed to make a beautiful film, as Trumbull simply captures just how majestic earth can be. In the beginning we are given this remarkable sequence in which we are shown the birth of the universe, again with no CGI but with resources such as coloured gas. A mention must be given to the ground-up camera shots (best way I can describe it), there was just something really effective about them,
The performances all-round are great. Jessica Chastain plays the part of the loving mother expertly and with an element of spirituality. Brad Pitt is brilliant, some think it’s his greatest performance (I’m not sure) but he has no problem playing the stern, authoritarian, complex and loving father. Special mention must be given to Hunter McCracken as he handles center stage with skill, confidence and maturity. Now to Sean Penn, he actually has very little impact, he’s on screen for like five minutes and spends that time just looking bewildered.
I would urge caution when watching this film. For the first half hour I was constantly on the lookout for metaphors, fearing that by not doing so I would misunderstand the film, debating with myself whether an image was a metaphor or not. I then stopped this frantic search an just watched the film, not only did I enjoy the film more but what I thought were metaphors came to me with ease. The film actually deals with the most important themes concerning mankind: life, death and our complex connections with others and the effects they have on us.
To conclude Tree of life is a hypnotic film, with a natural beauty. It is also a effective at being provocative and philosophical, supported by an excellent cast.