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The Tree of Life (2011)



Average Rating: 8.1/10
Reviews Counted: 253
Fresh: 212 | Rotten: 41

Terrence Malick's singularly deliberate style may prove unrewarding for some, but for patient viewers, Tree of Life is an emotional as well as visual treat.


Average Rating: 8.4/10
Critic Reviews: 48
Fresh: 43 | Rotten: 5

Terrence Malick's singularly deliberate style may prove unrewarding for some, but for patient viewers, Tree of Life is an emotional as well as visual treat.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.3/5
User Ratings: 57,575

My Rating

Movie Info

From Terrence Malick, the acclaimed director of such classic films as Badlands, Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life is the impressionistic story of a Midwestern family in the 1950's. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world,

Oct 11, 2011


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Latest News on The Tree of Life

November 13, 2012:
Malick's To the Wonder Set for April 2013
And he's already finished work on the follow-up.
November 5, 2012:
Val Kilmer Set Pics from Terrence Malick's Next Movie Promise Madness
A walker, a chainsaw, and a self-administered haircut!


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All Critics (256) | Top Critics (48) | Fresh (212) | Rotten (41) | DVD (11)

This film's rewards are many, for those with the patience to simply let it float.

June 16, 2011 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

In this flawed yet masterful, unforgettable movie, Malick argues that even the tiniest mote can have value. He sees miracles everywhere. You just have to make an effort to see them, too.

June 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Glibly put, this challenging time-skipping rumination is the big screen equivalent of watching that "Tree" grow.

June 13, 2011 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel | Comments (68)
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

"The Tree of Life" is rooted in human nature but ascends to the infinite mystery. It's a dizzying climb with few footholds for the timid or cynical, but the view from above is heavenly.

June 10, 2011 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The result actually plays like a divine pronouncement, cosmic in scope and oracular in tone, a cinematic sermon on the mount that shows its creator in exquisite form. Exquisite but frustrating.

June 10, 2011 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail | Comments (6)
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The vision is dazzling. The portrayal of family life palpable. The ending ... well, let's go back to the vision.

June 10, 2011 Full Review Source: Detroit News | Comments (4)
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Go ahead and take away my credibility badge...The film is one of the most emotionally affecting and profound experiences of my life, regardless of how recent it is.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Mezzanine
Movie Mezzanine

You'd be hard pressed to find an examination of human existence as profound and spiritual as Terrence Malick's mind-blowing trip through the cosmos.

May 24, 2013 Full Review Source: The Patriot Ledger
The Patriot Ledger

The lack of story or purpose is annoying and at times, the film is too experimental. Topping things off is an abrupt and unsatisfying ending which doesn't leave us with good feelings towards the film.

March 13, 2013 Full Review Source: We Got This Covered
We Got This Covered

Absurdly over-rated...

January 4, 2013 Full Review Source: McClatchy-Tribune News Service
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Malick may have pushed the envelope a bit too far, losing the ability to see the forest for the trees - even in a film as beautiful and surreal as The Tree of Life

October 2, 2012 Full Review Source: ScreenRant

It's fair to say that everyone will get at least something out of this film.

September 28, 2012 Full Review Source:

While it doesn't leave you as breathless as Malick would like, The Tree of Life will stir your soul and make you think. Which is an outcome every moviemaker should aspire to create.

August 27, 2012 Full Review Source: NECN

Less Plato than metaphysical Play-Doh

July 13, 2012 Full Review Source: Cinemania

Malik's vision and deeply powerful imagery outlives its welcome after 20 minutes, leaving a film that meanders along trying to impress with concepts and ideas.

June 21, 2012 Full Review Source: Dial M For Movies | Comment (1)
Dial M For Movies

This film is a cinematic triumph! Terrence Malick's masterpiece!

May 12, 2012 Full Review Source: Sin Magazine
Sin Magazine

Es cierto que la película es ambiciosa, y que no va a gustarle a todo el mundo. Pero para quien logre conectar con ella, puede resultar en una experiencia removedora y visualmente impactante.

April 11, 2012 Full Review Source: Uruguay Total | Comments (2)
Uruguay Total

I'm not sure all of its diverse elements successfully make a whole story, but I am giving this film extra credit for being so incredibly ambitious, visually stunning and humane. It is a refreshing contrast to films that show the worst of humanity.

February 2, 2012 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

A visually dazzling, intentionally polarizing examination of life and death, and the beauty and darkness hidden between.

January 29, 2012 Full Review Source: IGN DVD

Terrence Malick's astonishing masterpiece of light, movement, and spirit, casts a dizzying spell and somehow manages to pronounce the ineffable while telling its humble tale.

January 4, 2012 Full Review Source: | Comments (3)

If I can prevent just one person from watching this, it'll have been worth suffering through it.

December 31, 2011 Full Review Source: | Comments (100)

A movie rooted in philosophy is bound to feel, well, philosophical. Expecting a filmmaker to avoid highfalutin' imagery and ideas when he's examining The Nature of Man is like expecting a geometry teacher to avoid talking about angles.

December 30, 2011 Full Review Source:

A rich film that sets lofty goals for itself, and doesn't fall short by much.

December 29, 2011 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

Writer/director Terrence Malick has defied the odds and created a masterpiece of harrowing truth and deeply felt emotion.

December 24, 2011 Full Review Source: JWR

A bold, epic exercise that Malick comes close to pulling off. It may not stack up against his best, but it doesn't fail to incite feelings of awe in its audience, either.

December 18, 2011 Full Review Source: The Sun Herald | Comment (1)
The Sun Herald

Yes, it is a very strange film but, cutting Malick some slack for artistic license, his film is also compelling and hypnotic.

November 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Mark Leeper's Reviews | Comments (2)
Mark Leeper's Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Tree of Life

I'm quite amazed that this film was released in mainstream theaters. That's a pretty interesting commentary on our society right there. I will leave you to interpret and understand that statement as you much like what Terrence Malick has done with this movie, which stands out as one of the most thought provoking, stunning, and confounding films (probably) ever made.

There are shades of Kubrick throughout, but ultimately, this is completely and originally Malick doing Malick. What is this film about? Well, everything, really. The creation of Earth and life on it, the human experience, and questions of very philosophical (mostly existentialism) and religious natures done in a very fractured, abstract, and allegorical fashion.

All of the above is primarily filtered through the growing up of Jack O'Brien, played as an adult by Sean Penn as he reminisces about growing up in a fractured family in Texas in the 1950s, where he is portrayed by newcomer Hunter McCracken and is raised by a very overtly kind and caring, yet cowardly mother (Jessica Chastain) and a rigid, very strict authoritarian father (Brad Pitt). The film mostly is set in the past, with flashes to Jack as an adult, but also interspersed are glimpses of the far past, namely with a jaw dropping 17 minute sequence chronicling in detail one explanation for life on Earth.

This is an abstract art film and nearly it's finest. It's probably the best example of strict formalism and impressionism that I can think of, as well as a superb example of cinema as art. This isn't a movie in the conventional sense, but a very stylistic and formalized piece of art. If you don't understand it, that's fine. Maybe we're not supposed to. As long as it makes us feel *something* or have some sort of reaction, whatever it may be, then it has succeeded.

The film is heavy on symbolism (a vast understatement), and is begging for detailed and lengthy discussions concerning religion and philosophy, and I'm okay with that. For the most part, I found myself quite engaged and on the film's wavelength. It's a very challenging picture though, especially to sit through as it is non-linear, leisurely paced, extremely light on a real plot or story, and also 138 minutes in length, even though the original amount of footage shot equals a staggering 8 hours.

I'm glad I saw this, and I enjoyed it a great deal, but I had my problems with it. Some of it really baffled me and made no sense, I did get fidgety at times (but as someone with ADHD, I think I managed extremely well), and the stuff with Sean Penn, though I love him and know that Malick had his reasons for that part of the film, really sticks out to me as something weak that doesn't really work. It seemed forced and nothing was really done with it.

What I did like or love though, where the formal elements of this thing: Malick trademarks such as sparse dialogue (but compensated by copious amounts of voice over), having nearly all of it take place outside, philosophical and spiritual themes, and nature playing a huge role, and gorgeous cinematography. Like they did on The New World, Malick and his DP made themselves adhere to a strict set of guidelines for shooting this film (look up the list on imdb if you want). The results are absolutely brilliant and this is one of the most beautiful and captivating films I've seen both in general, and how they utilized everything to get their message out. Malick apparently also issued a set of guidelines for theaters on how he wanted the film to be shown in order for audiences to receive what he considered to be the best way of seeing it.

I enjoyed the acting as well. Jessica Chastain gives a graceful (no pun intended) performance as the mother, and proves she can be more than just a good looker with her quiet reserve and nuanced turn. Brad Pitt shines as the rigid father who is more of a force of nature in the unpredictable way he goes about living his life and raising kids. Both parents do love their kids, but in different ways, as per their respective philosophies on life and how to live it. The breakout though is Hunter McCracken as the young Jack. If this kid is to have a film career, he may very well go quite far as evidenced by his layered performance that, for a newcomer is really quite something.

The music, all of it classical, is wonderful and perfectly captures the mood, tone, atmosphere, and essence of things. In conjunction with the visuals, this film creates an amazing A/V experience. The visuals and effects are pretty good as well, sometimes great. A mixture of effects were used, though some of it doesn't look quite as good as the others (some of the cgi dinosaurs, yes dinosaurs) .The film had like 4 or 5 editors or so, and it kinda shows because there's some much going on that it'd be quite a challenge for one person to take on.

I know this film wasn't intended for everyone, but even then, I think Malick could have truncated some of this down or at least had a slightly less reserved pace. As I said though, this perhaps was purposely supposed to be just what it is and everyone is left to their own devices to look at it how they will. I would like to think that multiple viewings might uncover more levels of understanding and depth, but perhaps not. That's not a bad thing necessarily, just something to note.

Perhaps I will revisit this someday, maybe see it in high definition on a large screen with an excellent stereo system, and with someone I could have a discussion about it with, because, let's face it, it's easier (at least for me) to talk about this movie than it is to write about it, and I'm sure I'm not alone. I won't force this upon anyone, but do think you should give it a try, even if you have more trouble with it than I, because stuff like this doesn't get made very often, and not enough people do what Malick does, both of these things being stuff that I think need to change.
October 8, 2013
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

June 28, 2013
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

What we're dealing with here is an incredibly intriguing film. Beyond the curious premise, there isn't much we understand in the plot, but the visuals keep our eyes glued to the screen for every last minute. It adds up to two hours and nineteen minutes, so I feel confident in naming this the best cinematographic work I have ever witnessed, captured light years beyond perfection by Mexican photographer Emmanuel Lubezki. However such grandiloquence lost that well-deserved Academy Award to Hugo, I will never understand. As far as sound, the beauty comes quite close. Some of the more narrative scenes are complemented by birds chirping, others muted against piano music. The contrast is even greater during the more philosophical sequences. During some, the loud energy adds to the marvel; during others, you could literally hear a pin drop twenty yards away.
November 1, 2012

Super Reviewer

A splendidly beautiful poem.
September 24, 2012
Adriel Lim

Super Reviewer

    1. Mr. O'Brien: My sweet boy.
    – Submitted by Joseph D (12 months ago)
    1. Young Jack: Where were you? You let a little boy die. You'll let anything happen. How can I be good, if you aren't?
    – Submitted by Andrew O (15 months ago)
    1. Young Jack: Where were you? You let a little boy die. You'll let anything happen. How can I be good, if you aren't?
    – Submitted by Tom O (15 months ago)
    1. Mr. O'Brien: You make yourself what you are. You gotta control your own destiny. Can't say 'I can't'. You say I'm having trouble, I'm not done yet. You can't say 'I can't'.
    – Submitted by Joakim A (19 months ago)
    1. Mr. O'Brien: [about his son, Jack] I made him feel shame. My shame.
    – Submitted by Joakim A (19 months ago)
    1. Grandmother: Life goes on. People pass along. Nothing stays the same.
    – Submitted by Joakim A (19 months ago)
View all quotes (33)

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