This is the first time someone asked me to watch a movie and to write a review on it. It’s quite overwhelming and I took my time with this. I hope I’ve got it right.
First and foremost, this movie is everything that you are NOT expecting it to be. The Tree of Life is a Terrance Malick movie. Period. Anyone who is familiar with his style of direction will not be so taken aback, but I belonged to the not-so-familiar category. I was sent reeling 30 minutes into the movie. I’m hyperventilating now. I need to take a deep breath and try to prepare you what you’re in for.
Here it goes.
For persons who thought that this movie starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken is a routine indie or worse an action-packed drama film. It is not. Do not expect to understand this movie in its entirety, moreso in just one watch. Do not expect to find answers here in this blog, either. I cannot provide them.
The movie starts with a narrative, “There are two ways through life, the way of nature and the way of grace.” Little do you realize how much those words are going to resonate in all the scenes that are to follow. Malick uses intense nature happenings, titillating celestial occurrences combined with the evolution of life, even dinosaurs (right!). The 20 minute music montage at the start, it is pure brilliance. There are no dialogues or commentary just the representation of life through nature and Mother Earth. The imagery is all too powerful to encompass in one watch. My friend and I, both, admitted to have paused the movie several times just to get a grasp of the intensity of the cinematography. There is one scene that keeps repeating over and over in between clips and it could seem like a divine light manifesting as we move further into the movie. It would be fair to say that the music montage chosen is very, very haunting. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so eerie while watching waterfalls and organic molecules, the sun and volcanic eruptions.
If you get past the first 30 minutes of the movie, you’re in for something very beautiful. The movie transcends beyond nature into finer details of an American family and their lives in 1956. The lack of conversation and dialogues is not felt at all. This, the director has made sure with very emotive performances from every actor, especially from the child artists. The film moves back and forth from the eldest son’s point of view. The eldest of three sons who is now caged in a corporate world and battling with the issues from his past. There is also the mention of a tragedy at the very start of the movie. The worst of them all. Death.
The characters of the parents are portrayed as complete opposites. I daresay, I think the opening statement signifies that. The mother, gentle, naïve, always looking out for her kids, beautiful and calm and not over-bearing in the least. That, is the way of ‘grace’. Whereas, the father, played brilliantly by Brad Pitt, epitomizes the way of nature. Lauding, overbearing, he provides but never fails to collect his dues. He wants returned what he has provided, on his very terms.
What I liked most about this out-of-the-way movie, was the way they depicted the three boys growing up. There are some very powerful scenes, one of which I had to re-watch again just now because it felt like deja-vu.
The Tree of Life will only leave you with a myriad of questions. Some of which, you’ll need a very deep analysis to even grasp at all. We are all continuously evolving. Life, is all about evolving. From birth, to adolescence, to adulthood and death. It is amazing and so refreshing that all of human evolution can be roughly narrated in a matter of 2 hours. Watch this movie without any kind of expectations. Feel yourself take to a higher order, maybe. Question everything. Don’t criticize. It’s of no use. Every person who tries to breakdown what this movie is about will have a wildly different interpretation. This, is mine.
It was sunlight, just doing its everyday duty. It was passing through. I was there in its way and it didn’t bend. I wonder if I broke the cross-stitch pattern it was creating on the wooden floor. I picked up a book and looked at it longingly. I think I do that a lot, just holding someone’s world in my hand and appreciating the time and effort put into those pages to raise right from scratch something everyone could love. It’s been long since I was moved so deeply and that afternoon felt like a standstill. My world had slowed down and it was just me and some thousand books and I have never felt safer.
It is odd when material things give you such strong emotions. Remaining unattached has never done any good. When certain people occupy a good-sized apartment in your brain and there’s nothing else you can even think about, that is knowing the sunlight has already broken down the walls which by the way were always made up of Jell-o and not bricks and stones.
I was right there, under the sunlight and all I could think about was the image I was creating from a third person’s point of view. A girl standing motionless next to the window pane with a book in her hand and the sun in her eyes and the sunlight slanting on her hair. Here’s the thing: I was there and I was acutely aware of it. I doubt before that moment if I’ve ever loved my existence so much.