Directed by TERRENCE MALICK
Growing up, he is influenced both by his mother and father, as we all are: we see scenes of pure joy, bathed in magical sunlight, shared with his loving mother; and we see moments of pain, motivated by their father’s harsh words and temperament (even a somewhat eerie segment of Mr. O’Brien playing the organ). Grace is presented as liberation, nature as oppression. He will struggle with both: Father. Mother. Always you wrestle inside me. When one of the neighbour’s kid drowns in the public pool, something changes in Jack. He starts noticing the tragedies, pushing boundaries. He vandalizes, tortures frogs, plays dangerous games with his brother. He apologizes, then does it again. Until the most intense moment comes, when his father is under a car, vulnerable. Before, he asked God to kill him – could that be Him granting Jack the opportunity?
Of course that doesn’t justify his actions, but his redemption in the end blurs the line between right and wrong, and gets closer to what makes us human: I wanted to be loved because I was great; A big man. I’m nothing. Look at the glory around us; trees, birds. I lived in shame. I dishonored it all, and didn’t notice the glory. I’m a foolish man. Humans are foolish. Mr. O’Brien was foolish. Job was foolish. We fail, repeatedly. We experience with frogs, we scare our brothers. But we’re also good. And when Jack is standing on an ascending elevator, the machine going beep beep beep like a beating heart, he walks through a desert and finally reaches a sandy beach that may very well be heaven, and he realizes that the good things outweigh the bad. He comes down and smiles, for he gets it now. He’s finally alright.
This is The Tree of Life. I’m not sure what it is trying to say, only that it seems to use Job’s tale to say it. Though to many it represented two incredibly dull hours, to others, just like me, the first viewing is quite the cinematic experience: it will spark your senses, stir emotions, and if you’re patient, leave you in wonder. The second time around, it will make you think harder, be curious and eager to unveil every detail.
It is sincere, bold, and beautiful. It speaks through images and sounds (one can’t forget Desplat’s work) rather than words, though when it uses them, they’re used wisely. Its style and narrative are as organic as the actor’s performances, all of them. I think, for once, not only the kids were not annoying, they were terrific. It emphasises gorgeous details of everyday life, the beauty that surrounds us, how precious life is. Moreover, every frame as a meaning, the one you give to it. We could spend hours analysing every single one of them. So I apologize if what I wrote seems confusing, and for being perhaps too long. But one thing is certain: when dealing with such primal matters, with the very mystery of life, one can easily get lost — but somehow The Tree of Life manages to do just fine.