The Tree of Life review by Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
Winner of the Cannes 2011 Palme d’Or The Tree of Life is a strangely non-linear film that aims to query the meaning of life through the childhood memories of a Texan, Jack O’Brian – played as an adult by Sean Penn and by various others throughout his youth - growing up in a grief stricken family in 1950’s American South.
The film is interspersed with surreal images of the various stages of the development of life on Earth, from creation through dinosaurs and eventually settling upon the O’Brian family as they attempt to come to terms with the loss of a son and brother. Throughout the film deep and meaningful questions are voiced, by both Jack, in several stages of his life, and the rest of his family, all the while centring around the growth of a tree that Jack has seen planted.
The film is slow and not easy to watch; as there is little narrative plot to follow, in many ways the film seems little more than a series of erratic events. Having said this it is still intensely emotive and the depth of the questions posed is matched only by the grace and strength of Terrance Mallick’s film-making. The Tree of Life is interesting and thought-provoking and beautiful in an artistic sense, yet it is not a film you will find yourself aching to watch again. It deserves very high praise as a piece of philosophical art, yet as a piece of entertainment it is lacking in engagement. For many this will be one of those films you feel you “should” see, rather than one you will want to.