The Tree of Life ★★★½

”I can’t talk to you.”

Often described as heavily impressionistic, The Tree of Life is a cinematic Rorschach test. This is not to say that the film itself is random or without meaning, but rather, it is meant to be questioned by design. It opens with a quote from the Book of Job, immediately establishing itself as a religious work. The nearly 20-minute sequence that soon follows depicts the creation of the galaxy and later life itself, further establishing that the conflicts depicted in the film are merely a microcosm of the conflicts within the universe, conflicts between father and son, man and God, and love and death. I’ve read many truly lovely write-ups about this film from people who share deep personal connections to it, and for them, viewing The Tree of Life was a deeply emotional, cathartic experience that allowed them to reflect of their own lives. For those people, I believe this film is perfect. However, that is precisely why I do not believe in objective evaluation of movies, as art is ultimately a personal experience of interpretation and emotional response. Personally, I was not moved by this film. It was beautifully shot and accompanied by a fully realized soundscape, but as a work of art, it did not resonate with me emotionally.

I wonder if my reaction to this would have been different had I not already seen Terrence Malick’s most recent film, Song to Song. Though they operate differently on a thematic level, they are structurally quite similar. Perhaps this would have been a more impactful viewing had it been unlike anything I’d seen before, rather than something familiar. It fascinated me, though it failed to evoke a more visceral response.

Rating: 70/100

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