The Tree of Life (2011)

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The Tree of Life is a poetic piece about the ongoing search for life's meaning. A loose story is developed around the death of a 19-year-old boy. The movie spreads out from this single event to encapsulate the memories of the boy's family and the history of life leading up to the event. Sean Penn is the present day version of the boy's older brother who seems to be searching for solace. The central bulk of the film focuses on the boy's everyday life as a child with Brad Pitt as his controlling father and Jessica Chastain as his passive mother.

Save for a particularly incongruous scene with unfortunately CGIed dinosaurs, this film is visual cinematic perfection. It is packed full of short clips of dazzling imagery. The camera angles and movement, the heavy editing, and the fact that much of the script is whispered by the cast as inner monologue makes the whole film feel like memory.

Overall The Tree of Life is not an easy film to watch if you expect anything linear or plotted, but it is more a piece to experience and meditate over. It is a pretentious work and perhaps too long for its purpose. However, it does manage to tie together massive amounts of interpretive material, though it may take a few very patient viewings to gather understanding from it.