The ‘Tree of Life’ (2011) focuses around a 1950’s American family. We follow the story of the eldest son from the day he’s born through his childhood and get a glimpse of his confused adult-life.
The film seems slow to start and after a twenty minute long sequence of various earthly landscapes and close ups of erupting volcanoes and waterfalls which then continue onto clips of dinosaurs I started to wonder if I was still viewing the same film. Although it continues like this throughout, giving little meaning away and focusing more on visual imagery, it is certainly thought-provoking.
Brad Pitt plays the controlling antagonistic father, alongside Jessica Chaistain (The Help, The Debt), the permissive mother. We watch their three sons grow up, almost day by day it feels like, and then catch Sean Penn (Milk, The Interpreter) in the present day playing the eldest son, still consumed with his childhood and strained relationship with his father. Although there are big names in this we see little acting, Penn is shown for no longer than ten minutes. Pitt gives a powerful performance with what he can, there is more long silent stares than conversing.
Built around many ‘meaning of life’ questions and worries about humanity and faith the plot holds little excitement, which I was quite disappointed as I had expected a completely different angle from this movie. Some of the imagery is fantastic and would be nice to look at for a few minutes, however not through two and a half hours of film. The plot is difficult to connect to as it is so detached and I often found myself getting agitated at the pace it was progressing with.
This definitely could be the film for you if you like scenes of the grass growing and listening to an operatic soundtrack instead of dialogue, I’m all for artsy films but I’m afraid I had a lot of difficulty in sitting through this to the end credits.