The Tree of Life

User Score
6.9

Generally favorable reviews- based on 586 Ratings

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User Reviews

  1. Sep 1, 2014
    8
    The Tree of Life may not appeal to everyone; however, this film is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful ever made. The film is visual as well as literarily brilliant.
  2. Nov 11, 2012
    6
    Why did I watch it?
    Came across this one after seeing it mentioned in Sight & Sounds 2012 greatest film poll. Although it didn't make the final list, 16 critics voted it in their top 10 greatest films of all time. That coupled with the fact that I enjoyed another of director Terence Malick's films, The Thin Red Line, made this worth investigating.
    What's it all about? Simply put, the
    Why did I watch it?
    Came across this one after seeing it mentioned in Sight & Sounds 2012 greatest film poll. Although it didn't make the final list, 16 critics voted it in their top 10 greatest films of all time. That coupled with the fact that I enjoyed another of director Terence Malick's films, The Thin Red Line, made this worth investigating.

    What's it all about?
    Simply put, the film largely chronicles the childhood memories of a middle-aged man Jack O'Brien (Sean Penn). Growing up in Waco, Texas, Jack is the oldest of three boys, sons of parents Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain with contrasting views on life. Pitt is frustrated with his achievements in life and raises his sons with a firm hand, in particular Jack, as he attempts to impress upon them that life is a cruel game that must be conquered through hard work and desire. In Chastain, the boys have a mother with a carefree spirit, happy to simply be alive amongst the wonders of God. In between the present day and the retold memories, the viewer is told at the film's offset that one of the younger boys died as a young adult in military service.

    Should you watch it?
    The Tree of Life is without doubt the most difficult film I have ever watched. I'll admit to watching this in two sessions as I stepped away from it after the first twenty minutes or so, frustrated with the lack of narrative and religious whispering behind scenes of light flickering in the dark.

    Thankfully, I returned to it later although I almost gave up again during the twenty minute sequence covering the creation of Earth and life upon it. This was like watching a nature documentary and culminating with CGI dinosaurs, I still question the necessity for this sequence. To me it felt completely detached from the 'the tree of life' that was the telling of the life of Jack.

    The film is edited to within an inch of it's life as some fantastically beautiful shots and imagery are interspersed between the scenes of the family's relationship. I believe the only person who will truly appreciate and understand the intricacy of the film's editing and imagery is Malick himself.

    A corner is turned once the philosophy of evolution is put to one side and the narrative (although still unconventional) begins. Pitt, Chastain and Hunter McCracken (young Jack) give truly excellent performances. As the oldest of three brothers myself, I related to the boys innocently running amok in the neighbourhood, usually going too far in their youthful exuberance and daring (and usually the younger brother paying the price!). I really enjoyed this section of the story, as Jack became troublesome and his relationship with his father began to breakdown to the point of him considering dropping a car on his head. Disappointingly though, for me the ending was as unrewarding as the film's start leaving my enjoyment of The Tree of Life a real quandary.
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  3. Jun 17, 2012
    9
    This movie is simply brilliant. It does not take you by the hand and tell you the tale - there are indeed many tales to be had; such is life. It deals with such concepts as the frailty of life, the cruelty and unpredictability of nature and man's meaningless part in an infinite immensely powerful universe. Every part of the movie is important; if you are bored or do not understand why he'sThis movie is simply brilliant. It does not take you by the hand and tell you the tale - there are indeed many tales to be had; such is life. It deals with such concepts as the frailty of life, the cruelty and unpredictability of nature and man's meaningless part in an infinite immensely powerful universe. Every part of the movie is important; if you are bored or do not understand why he's showing volcanoes you're plainly dumb. These forces are meant to cut your breath as you ponder over the lost child; and the nature which took him away. I feel I have grown from watching this movie and greater appreciate what's important in life. Firstly, this movie is important, so watch it. Expand
  4. Jan 28, 2013
    7
    The Tree of Life is a movie that really makes you think. It's not hard to follow and I wouldn't call it "confusing" but if you're looking for a movie to just simply watch and not analyze this is not the movie for you. The only problem with this movie is the fact that both the beginning and ending "artistic" sequences are too long. My only other complaint is that the movie could have endedThe Tree of Life is a movie that really makes you think. It's not hard to follow and I wouldn't call it "confusing" but if you're looking for a movie to just simply watch and not analyze this is not the movie for you. The only problem with this movie is the fact that both the beginning and ending "artistic" sequences are too long. My only other complaint is that the movie could have ended several times but the ending sequence as I just said drags on for just slightly too long. This movie is lead by great acting by both Pitt and Chastain. Pitt playing the hard and traditional father and Chastain playing Pitt's wife and the emotional mother. This film also features theological ties and biblical references something typical of the movie's director Terrence Malick. Overall The Tree of Life is a good movie. It's not for everyone but I would certainly recommend it. Expand
  5. Jan 1, 2016
    10
    The Tree of Life is truly brilliant. Both visually stunning, thematically powerful, and emotionally moving, it really has everything. The storytelling can feel a bit distant and the plot both aimless and directionless, but it truly makes sense for a film about the meaning of life. As with all Terrence Malick directed films, the acting is not prominent, but Brad Pitt and Jessica ChastainThe Tree of Life is truly brilliant. Both visually stunning, thematically powerful, and emotionally moving, it really has everything. The storytelling can feel a bit distant and the plot both aimless and directionless, but it truly makes sense for a film about the meaning of life. As with all Terrence Malick directed films, the acting is not prominent, but Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain are both fantastic, as is Hunter McCracken. The film is one of the most beautiful ones I have ever seen in many ways, both visually and thematically. A rubix cube type of film that can be broken down in many ways, it ultimately means different things to different people. For me, it ultimately symbolized our lack of control in life and how we must make amends with this in order to truly experience the best life has to offer us. Regardless, The Tree of Life is a phenomenal film that is brilliant in every facet. I cannot recommend it enough. Expand
  6. Dec 6, 2012
    10
    What is The Tree of Life? It's a celebration of life. It's a prayer to the one who creates all things. It's a hymn of reality about both the good and evil in the world. It's a reminder of who we are and where we come from. A true poetic masterpiece. One of the best films of 2011.
  7. Aug 20, 2015
    10
    **********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

    The most strange, indelible film (so far released) in the 21st century.
  8. Jan 6, 2013
    5
    This Movie is a very beautiful representation of life and how family all interacts with each other. However, a movie hast to have a story and Terrance Mallick does not understand that.
  9. Jun 27, 2016
    7
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. This movie is really philosophic, i would say even too philosophic! The cinematogrpahy was great, the soundtrack was genial and the acting was superb. The only problem is the way that this material was delivered to us! I understand that the director of the movie wanted to show us a movie about the human life. This movie is bassicaly the Old testament. First we had the creation of the world! Then we had the sins that we do (the ten commandments)! The ending scene was probably the paradise...or... i don't know! :D Too philosophic, i repeat Expand
  10. May 21, 2013
    6
    The movie was like watching moving art. It was the best visually pleasing film of the year. The actors were great as well. It wasn't the best film and didn't have much more other then that. This is why I give it a 6/10
  11. Aug 23, 2014
    10
    The Tree of Life is one of the most beautiful and one of the best movies ever.Its something new,refreshing and so poetic you want to yelp with glee.Its clearly not for the average viewer because it requires patience and because its thought-provoking.Its just so unique (even though a ot of people compare this to 2001:A Space Odyssey).Its haunting me ever since I've watched it the firstThe Tree of Life is one of the most beautiful and one of the best movies ever.Its something new,refreshing and so poetic you want to yelp with glee.Its clearly not for the average viewer because it requires patience and because its thought-provoking.Its just so unique (even though a ot of people compare this to 2001:A Space Odyssey).Its haunting me ever since I've watched it the first time.Especially the Creation part with Zbigniew Preisner's-Lacrimosa in the background is one of the most charming moments in the movie history.Terrence Malick takes some time to make a movie but if a movie is this special and elegant then I am gonna wait patiently. Expand
  12. Jul 22, 2013
    8
    The Tree of Life is a strange one for sure, it's a movie I find hard to fault because it does very little wrong, I only understood a bit of the story, and the rest went right over my head, but I was captivated by the films beauty. There's is just no denying how amazing this film looks, it is an utter joke that the film didn't get Best Achievement in Cinematography in the Oscars, theThe Tree of Life is a strange one for sure, it's a movie I find hard to fault because it does very little wrong, I only understood a bit of the story, and the rest went right over my head, but I was captivated by the films beauty. There's is just no denying how amazing this film looks, it is an utter joke that the film didn't get Best Achievement in Cinematography in the Oscars, the camerawork is just amazing and the whole formation sequence was just gorgeous. I'd take something like this film over a CGI fest anyday in terms of visuals. Then another thing that was amazing about the film was the music, it perfectly suited the film, an absolutely gorgeous soundtrack. The acting in the film is amazing, there's very little dialogue in the movie so the actors mostly have to just be emotional without talking and they do an amazing job. Then there's the plot, which people have argued that there isn't even one, but there most assuredly is, it's just very unconventionally told. It's disappointing that it's structure is so irregular because I'm sure there's a beautiful story to be found in this film, and I would have love to of found it, but I only found a fraction of it. Terrance Maliks ambitious vision may only show to the most patient and open minded moviegoers, but I still found The Tree of Life to be a breathtaking (and sometimes frustrating) experience. Expand
  13. Apr 23, 2014
    10
    Well, this is certainty a love-it-or-hate-it movie. It's not that the movie is the best film I've ever seen, and I'm sure those who will hate it won't think it's the worst movie they've ever seen, either. It almost feels like an experimental film. It uses nature and beautiful cinematography to tell its story, and uses words less. It paints a great picture of life in general, and almostWell, this is certainty a love-it-or-hate-it movie. It's not that the movie is the best film I've ever seen, and I'm sure those who will hate it won't think it's the worst movie they've ever seen, either. It almost feels like an experimental film. It uses nature and beautiful cinematography to tell its story, and uses words less. It paints a great picture of life in general, and almost feels like 2001: A Space Odyssey in some cases. The actors involved give Oscar-worthy performances, the kids included. This movie is definitely only for certain people, and I am one of them. Those who don't like it probably didn't understand it; but that's okay, it's not supposed to be for everyone. Expand
  14. Oct 15, 2013
    10
    The photography of this movie is beautiful, the plot too. Terrence Malick did a wonderful job, and the acting was amazing. What I like about this movie is that it isn't obvious, it makes you wonder, it's definitely not made for the common viewer. Like I said, beautiful movie.
  15. Apr 24, 2014
    10
    A masterpiece always has unique things, epic sides, original ones and unduplicatable. The Tree of Life is that case. This film is so poetic, stylish and beautiful. (One of the best poetic film ever made). The core of this film is the visual and its visualization. That the unique and original in this film. You will be confused and feel peculiar with this film, at least in early 50 minutes,A masterpiece always has unique things, epic sides, original ones and unduplicatable. The Tree of Life is that case. This film is so poetic, stylish and beautiful. (One of the best poetic film ever made). The core of this film is the visual and its visualization. That the unique and original in this film. You will be confused and feel peculiar with this film, at least in early 50 minutes, you would say "What is that?". But, There is 88 minutes left to see and to understand. No wonder If this film called the best film in 2011. Expand
  16. May 18, 2014
    7
    I must say I realy like this movie. It's not predictable, has an interesting storyline, visualy stunning. It's mesmerising and poetic. The video that came to life. Pure art.
  17. Oct 15, 2014
    9
    Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" is an ambitious undertaking on the creation, the life, and the death of the universe. It is one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen, with one of the most beautiful soundtracks. The movie seems to develop around a family living in the 1950s Kansas, but it is more than that. It is the spirituality and the philosophy of all creation seen andTerrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" is an ambitious undertaking on the creation, the life, and the death of the universe. It is one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen, with one of the most beautiful soundtracks. The movie seems to develop around a family living in the 1950s Kansas, but it is more than that. It is the spirituality and the philosophy of all creation seen and expressed through the lives of these parents and their three boys.

    At first, it would seem like this movie is creating a wall between you and the characters because you rarely see them interacting properly. But it is the other way around. This movie aims to connect the viewer to the forces of creation, the power of nature and spirituality, in general. In other words, it is not about the people, it is about the elements of the universe, most likely the "nature" and "grace" which are represented by the disciplinary father and the forgiving mother, respectively.

    I am from Romania. So, in a way this movie reminds me of our national writer Mihai Eminescu's "Scrisoarea I" or "Letter No. I" which also represents the birth and death of the universe.

    Despite this movie's beauty, it is not for everyone. It is a movie which must be savoured with patience and an open soul, or, if you want, a spiritual soul. The catalyst for this movie's amazing creation scene, is the death of the son, which causes the time to go back before there even was time, all the way to the creation of the universe which starts on a galactic scale, then goes to a microscopic scale, and eventually it turns its attention to Earth, all presented with masterful cinematography and soundtrack.

    The end of the universe is seen as a desolate beach, where silence rules and everyone is meeting their loved ones, in what it seems an eternal walk in silence, but also happiness. This is the ending of the movie, a movie which is extremely abstract and, sometimes, unclear.

    Nonetheless, this should be viewed by anyone who considers him/herself a cinefile as its an example of artistry through writing, cinematography and music.
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  18. Jan 31, 2015
    10
    First of all, for those who have not yet read reviews, let me start by saying that this is not your "Brad Pitt/Sean Penn" labeled blockbuster.

    Also, I would like to add that, if you really want to take in as much as possible (trust me there is a lot to take in), then you should go see this movie, relaxed, not tired, and in a receiving state of consciousness (I watched it last night at
    First of all, for those who have not yet read reviews, let me start by saying that this is not your "Brad Pitt/Sean Penn" labeled blockbuster.

    Also, I would like to add that, if you really want to take in as much as possible (trust me there is a lot to take in), then you should go see this movie, relaxed, not tired, and in a receiving state of consciousness (I watched it last night at 2200hrs, after a very very long difficult day) and I am seriously considering re-watching it on a Saturday night...

    It is practically impossible to summarize this film, in a few words, but what this film does to you, mostly I think, is take you back to your childhood days, and bring back, re-ignite all these long lost first moments/feelings/discoveries/guilts. Do you remember the first time you had a fight with your parents? What crossed your mind? what did you feel?.....apply this to all the first times and you might get something that feels like this film.

    This film blends all the above with imaginary scenes from the creation of the cosmos, how all is connected, how did we get here? why? what did God really have to do with this? or is God in other words Love?

    You have to see for yourself, and I believe each and every one of us will have his own different experience which is exactly what real Art is.

    Bravo, to the Director, Producers and Cast
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  19. Jan 13, 2015
    9
    Its not surprising that so many dislike this movie. Its one which provides those who dislike impressionistic and non-linear narrative movies (by default every movie has a narrative in the sense that shot follows shot and sequence follows sequence regardless of our comprehension of it?) with a chance for a grab at the most negative metaphors and similes for their viewing experiences. ItsIts not surprising that so many dislike this movie. Its one which provides those who dislike impressionistic and non-linear narrative movies (by default every movie has a narrative in the sense that shot follows shot and sequence follows sequence regardless of our comprehension of it?) with a chance for a grab at the most negative metaphors and similes for their viewing experiences. Its a relief for me to watch a beautiful movie like this after so much clumsy ugliness that purports to be populist entertainment. I can understand why some have compared it to Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey (a formative experience for me seeing that for the first time in 70mm and six track stereo at the age of 12) as it also seems like one of those wonderful movies that actually feels like its close to its Director's vision? All I know is that when my partner and I watched this a few days ago, projected on to our 60" wide screen in High Def with superb surround sound I found myself sobbing heavily with tears at several moments and frequently overwhelmed. I could be deluding myself (which is fine really as all movies offer varying states of delusion?) but this really did seem like a work of art. Its fine if people want to write adolescent carping words about it: the internet gives spoiled brats fed on junk plenty of opportunity to complain. For me this just took me out of myself like few others. It seems like a truly worthy Palme D'Or winner. Expand
  20. Jan 1, 2016
    9
    Life in a nutshell.

    The Tree of Life is one of the most stunning, magnificently shot movies I've ever seen. The cinematography is something that you can't take your eyes away from, it's just that stunning. Emmanuel Lubezki is the master of cinematography, I mean he's right up there with Roger Deakins, Vittorio Storaro, and Robert Richardson. Terrence Malick direction in this movie was
    Life in a nutshell.

    The Tree of Life is one of the most stunning, magnificently shot movies I've ever seen. The cinematography is something that you can't take your eyes away from, it's just that stunning. Emmanuel Lubezki is the master of cinematography, I mean he's right up there with Roger Deakins, Vittorio Storaro, and Robert Richardson. Terrence Malick direction in this movie was pure brilliant, even when sometimes it dose get a little pretentious with some of the imagery, but all that aside, this is a beautiful film that's not going to be for everyone.
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  21. May 30, 2016
    9
    ''The Tree of Life'' is Terrence Malick's magnum opus, one cannot speak of a Malick films without mentioning composition. Only a few living filmmakers pay as much attention to cinematography and music as Malick. The dialogue in The Tree of Life is scarce; composer Alexandre Desplat fills in the gaps in which we might normally expect talking. His music, like the images brought to the screen''The Tree of Life'' is Terrence Malick's magnum opus, one cannot speak of a Malick films without mentioning composition. Only a few living filmmakers pay as much attention to cinematography and music as Malick. The dialogue in The Tree of Life is scarce; composer Alexandre Desplat fills in the gaps in which we might normally expect talking. His music, like the images brought to the screen by the greatest cinematographer alive today, Emmanuel Lubezki, add color and depth to the emotions of the characters. They emphasize without being ostentatious.

    Also, early in the proceedings, there is a 15-minute interlude that depicts the creation of Earth, the beginnings of life, the era of the dinosaurs, and the events presaging the rise of man. Many people dislike this part of the film, they say that it takes them out of the experience, and i fiercely disagree, i think this segment is The Tree of Life's most awe-inspiring, interesting, technically brilliant, and powerful scene in the whole movie. The location of this segment within the movie is also perfect. The movie starts of with Mr and Mrs. 'O Brien hearing the news that one of their 3 boys has died, we see grief and grace.
    Then, as a viewer you wondered how that happened, you want to know why and how he died. Then the movie takes us back in time, to the beginning of the story, not a couple of days before he died, not a couple of years before he died, no the story takes us back to the beginning of time, and from there it guides us through the movie.
    Absolutely phenomenal!

    Ofcourse as many Malick movies are, they arent flawless, and as for ''The Tree of Life'' i have 3 minor problems with it.
    -Malick's distaste for dialogue comes to stab him from behind again which results in long stares, and quite moments where you think something is going to be said, or should be said.
    -The editing throughout this movie is very hacky, and in my honest opinion sloppily done, because the editing is pretty poor, and the lack of (some) dialogue, it results in awkward stares and things of that sort.
    -The Sean Penn scenes offer little beyond an assurance that Jack grows up to be a man who's unsure of the meaning of life. They seem largely superfluous except as a way to provide Sean Penn with some screen time. The "modern day" Jack scenes are unremarkable except in that the photographic composition remains outstanding (there are a lot of low-angle shots which make the skyscrapers more imposing than they might otherwise be). Penn's version of the character is poorly developed; it's difficult to get beyond the actor. The danger in having a well-known thespian appear in this sort of part is that the performer never becomes buried in the character. As good an actor as Penn is, he is larger than life, and we find ourselves seeing "Sean Penn" not "Jack O'Brien." Contrast this with Brad Pitt, who has the time and opportunity to become submerged in his role.
    This may seem like something very bad, but it's okay, there are only a couple of Sean Penn scenes so it's not like half of the movie is bad, it really isnt, maybe only like 15 minutes.

    This might sound like a lot of cons but only a few pros but the flaws of the movie get diminished by the sheer brilliance of the rest of the movie, so there is nothing to worry about. I absolutely adore ''The Tree of Life'' and it is a very present contender for Best Movie of the decade. Go ahead and take away my credibility badge...The film is one of the most emotionally affecting and profound experiences of my life, regardless of how recent it is.
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Metascore
85

Universal acclaim - based on 43 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 40 out of 43
  2. Negative: 1 out of 43
  1. Reviewed by: Ian Nathan
    Jul 4, 2011
    100
    There is simply nothing like it out there: profound, idiosyncratic, complex, sincere and magical; a confirmation that cinema can aspire to art.
  2. 75
    The result actually plays like a divine pronouncement, cosmic in scope and oracular in tone, a cinematic sermon on the mount that shows its creator in exquisite form.
  3. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Jun 22, 2011
    75
    Ponderous and perplexing, a somberly audacious film to make viewers swoon or snore, take your pick. It is defiantly opaque, a free-form meditation on nature and nurture across millennia with a tinge of biblical grace.