The Tree of Life is Terrence Malick’s most personal and confusing film to date. The Tree of Life is both a discussion on life’s inception and an account on how people in our society behave and see one another. The Tree of Life has no fixed narrative structure. The director is asking the audience to go with him on a journey through his childhood in the 1950’s. We are supposed to experience life through the eyes of one family and follow that family as they learn about themselves and each other. The main character of this film is a boy named Jack. Jack is one of the three sons in this 1950’s nuclear family. We see his interactions with his mother and father and hear his opinions on his family through voiceover narration. Jack’s family consists of his mother, father, and his two brothers. Throughout the film we learn Jack has anger and resentment towards his father’s aggressive and authoritative parenting style. Jack prefers his mother’s energetic and playful nature it seems. The Tree of Life seems determined to show the audience what life is and how we all have similar shared experiences.
The Tree of Life has been a six year passion project for filmmaker Terrence Mallick. Mallick takes on the role of writer and director of this film. He uses the knowledge he acquired through living life to guide us through the film about that very subject. The Tree of Life works as a film if you do not think about the fact that there is no strong narrative to tie things together. On occasion, a film’s goal can be to just put forth philosophical questions without actually answering them. The Tree of Life does exactly this and no more. The cinematography of the film matches the frank subject matter around which it is based. The film utilizes practical special effects to illustrate the beginning and ending of life. The nature scenes feel like an extension of the overall story rather than a tacked on component to dazzle viewers. I like The Tree of Life because it reminds moviegoers that moviegoing is an experience and that sometimes it can be good to not know what might happen next in a story. I firmly believe that the average movie goer relies too much on narration to help them through a film. This is a bold film that does not hold the audience’s hand. Terrence Mallick just wants the audience to explore the environment he has provided and question what life really is and how each of our individual lives shape us. The Tree of Life engages as many people as it confuses and in my mind those two things are what make a movie worth watching.