Joel on July 27th, 2011
On Saturday, the first summer day in Vancouver in a fortnight, Lauren and I did what some might call unconventional, foolhardy, hell, even crazy: we spent the afternoon in a dark cool movie theatre. We had been trying to see The Tree of Life for over a month, and we finally had an afternoon free to do so, so we jumped at the chance. And before you say this is a waste of a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I assure you that the beauty we beheld in that 2.5 hour viewing matches or surpasses anything we might have seen outdoors.
The Tree of Life is like nothing I have ever seen. I highly recommend it, but to properly enjoy it you must approach it with the proper expectations: this is not a normal narrative, linear film. It’s a Terrence Malick masterpiece. One part poem, one part prayer, one part spiritual reflection, and another Planet Earth. Its pace is its own: patient, some might say crawling, but the film has a way of building upon itself so that its ideas are meditative. There are long tangents, lots of space without dialogue, perhaps too many static shots of boys staring just off screen, but I take it all for its overarching and nearly overwhelming beauty.
It’s blessed by some wonderful performances. The three boys are convincing throughout, and Brad Pitt is as stern and as masculine as he’s ever been. Some have called it the performance of his career, and I wouldn’t argue. Jessica Chastain balances Pitt’s dominant presence with a contrasting grace and elegance. Sean Penn, admittedly, doesn’t do much, but he doesn’t need to, the film lifts its characters on high. At one point Chastain’s character is seen dancing on air.
See this film. It is a beautiful creation.