The Tree Of Life: "Unless You Love, Your Life Will Flash By"

Director:  Terrence Malick
Writer:     Terrence Malick
Starring:  Brad Pitt
                Sean Penn
                Jessica Chastain
                Fiona Shaw
Rating:     ***  

Home Release:

This beautifully acted, beautifully written and beautiful looking film about the loss of innocence just seems to fall flat.

Mr & Mrs O'Brien (Pitt & Chastain) are a happily married couple with three beautiful boys. One day they recieve the news that one of their sons, who is now 19, has died, effecting the whole family in their own way. As their lives move on they all slowly come to terms, all except Jack (Penn), one of the boys. He is now a succesful architect living in the big city, but is constantly plagued by his brothers death. One day when he see's a tree being planted he begins to think about the meaning of life. All actor give terrific performances and there isn't a fault in them, but somehow there is no emotional connection and I was unaffected by it all.
Pitt and Chastain, as the grieving parents, are terrific and give believeable and honest performances, as does Fiona Shaw as the grandmother. Her 'move on' attitude and almost cold reaction to everything is shown terrifically by Shaw, but again it  did nothing to me. As the older Jack, Penn did a terrific job of capturing the emotionally scared man who missed his brother, it was subtle yet obvious how he felt, but like Penn himself has said in interviews despite the brilliant writing and acting the emotion did not come through on screen.

One of the big problems, for me, in the film was the lack of clear narrative and flowing story. The constant cutting away and change of timeline made it distracting and unclear what I was meant to feel. The whole segment in the middle about the forming of the universe, as beautifully stunning as it all was, was confusing and out of place and left me wondering what was going on. Jack's questions over the top made it clear he was asking about life and what it's all about, but it was all so confusing and jumbled I just didn't get it. The film itself is shot beautifully and is really interesting to watch, but for such a sad story and what should be a emotional film, the way it was filmed distracted from that and just didn't work.

It is a lovely story and the writing and acting is phenomenal, but the director (Malick)  seemed to be unsure of what he was doing, and created a really jumbled and confusing film. The cutting and constant change of footage makes it hard to keep up, which is a real shame because it clearly could have been fantastic. I recommend the film, but maybe wait for it to come to tv rather than buy it as you may be dissapointed.