Tree of Life, The

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +4

Content: +3

Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Fiona Shaw. Drama, with a tinge of Sci-Fi fantasy. Written & directed by Terrance Malick.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Director Terrence Malick (Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The New World) offers up his fifth film, a thought provoking hymn to life. Itís an impressionistic story of a Midwestern family coping with a death, embittered relationships, and haunting questions concerning God and the afterlife.

Jack (Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith. This 1950s family is made up of an adoring mother, a frustrated father (Brad Pitt astonishing as a strict, often verbally abusive, but still loving parent), and three boys (Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler, Tye Sheridan - the three most endearing screen kids since those of To Kill A Mockingbird). But tragedy brings a life-change to each member when one of the boys dies. Struggling to cope with their loss, the family seeks Godís existence, his love, his forgiveness, his peace. The filmmaker uses this touching, introspective parable to examine the subject of a higher power and what it is He wants from his creation.

PREVIEW REVIEW: With a tip of the hat to Stanley Kubrikís 2001, this visual and viscerally emotional feast is sparked by exquisite imagery that is imaginative and profound, intimate and epic. The Tree of Life fearlessly examines ethereal questions with a spirituality that is neither pious nor prejudiced. Understand, this film doesnít proselytize a certain religion. It does, however, what so few films do: it suggests that we become aware of spiritual matters and rely on faith when the conundrums of the day overwhelm. Like any artist attempting profundity, Terrance Malick provides an atmosphere and sets a mood suitable for examining our own beliefs, thus giving the viewer a renewed desire to share them with others. At least that is what happened for me.

How near my insights reflect Terrance Malickís true intent, who can say? Theologians may counter with the perspective that Mr. Malickís lofty resonance is in actuality little more than an arty and incoherent introspection. But detractors cannot deny the filmís ability to cause discussion.

At first youíll ask, what was that all about? We all did. But as you ponder the filmís visuals and its intent, you will come to the joyous revelation that youíve just had an insightful motion picture experience. Itís a film where CGI effects are used to support the theme and performance, not dominate them. And Malick does more than awe us with his narrative; he taps into our subconscious, delving into spiritual and life-altering subjects.

In an era of ďrealityĒ entertainment that often limelightís insipid subjects such as the plight of the Kardasians squeezing oversized bottoms into undersized briefs, Terrance Malick has used a free-form art-house film to suggest the omniscient stature of God.

Side note: You know how Iím always griping over the defilement of language in movies? Well, I find it interesting and supportive to my cause that here we have a writer/director dealing with topics ranging from parental abuse, to the coming of age, to the creation of creation, without the profane use of Godís name, the now prevalent use of Christís name as mere expletive, or the common s- and f-words sprinkled through the dialogue in an effort to express emotion. Mr. Malick uses language, he doesnít abuse it. At least, not in this film.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Fox Searchlight Films

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: One or two minor expletives, but I caught no harsh language.

Profanity: None - can you believe it?

Violence: he father has emotional problems, probably from a sense of inadequacy and he takes it out on his family through verbal intimidation and on one occasion, physically; we learn of a death which has an emotional impact on the family, but the material is handled well by the filmmaker, causing us to care for those involved, not depressing us.

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: None

Other: Will this film cause people to come to Christ? I donít think thatís the intent. But it will open discussion. Be prepared.

Running Time: 120 minutes +
Intended Audience: Mature viewers

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