Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien, Jack, R.L., and Steve.
“The Tree of Life” (2011). Terrence Malick’s masterpiece, no stranger to best-of-the-century lists, plunges the viewer into a philosophical exploration of grief, theodicy and the duality of grace and human nature as a mid-century Texas family learns about the death of one of their three sons. The film’s experimental cinematography, replete with gratuitous nature shots, along with its extended special-effects sequence depicting the creation of the universe, cemented Malick’s signature aesthetic as well as his reputation for creating soul-searching films. This Palme d’Or winner earns a special mention on this list for its final beach scene, which we humbly but confidently laud as the greatest film depiction of eschatological bodily resurrection ever.
Actors need to be very careful about what they say about their projects. Even if they’re giving an interview to a foreign paper with answers that won’t be translated into English, that’s no protection against having their words come back to bite them. In Sean Penn’s case, he not only doesn’t understand the ending to The Tree of Life, he doesn’t even really like the way the story was told. As reported by The Guardian, Penn told the French newspaper Le Figaro, “A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact.” Penn continued to say, “Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing there and what I was supposed to add in that context! What’s more, [Terrence Malick] himself never managed to explain it to me clearly.”
While plenty of critics and audience members might agree that The Tree of Life is one of the more baffling movies the last decade, Penn’s inability to figure out what he’s doing in the film is a little worrying. After all, Penn literally plays the main character. Granted, he only shows up in the movie for about ten minutes, but he’s playing a grown-up version of the kid we’ve been following throughout the entire film. So yeah, it seems that Penn of all people should’ve probably tried a little harder to figure out what was happening with that ending.
BY ZIAH GRACE/JAN. 29, 2020 4:13 EST
So here are my Top 10 from that list: The Tree of Life (2011) —Terrence Malick takes on The Meaning of Life through the prism of a midcentury Texas family. A strange, difficult symphony of fractured narrative and beautiful acting.
A Separation’s excellence notwithstanding, however, I still can’t take it over Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life or even Moneyball (2011 was a good year for Brad Pitt). – Adam Nayman
1. “Tree of Life”: All the mystery and harmony of life, in the memory-tinged detail of a small-town 1950s Texas family but writ across time and the cosmos. Terrence Malick’s radiant 2011 film maps individual existence against eternity, turning an intimate tale epic. It’s got Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain and dinosaurs, and it’s one of the most sublime and soul-stirring movies ever made. — Associated Press film writer Jake Coyle
Jake Coyle and Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press Updated 3:14 pm CST, Friday, December 27, 2019
The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011). First and clear. A mind-bending exploration of life from beginning to end. Also a reminder that Brad Pitt, who is being lauded for his acting chops in Ad Astra (which is good but not great), has always been a damn fine actor.
A mind-bending exploration of life tops a very personal list of the best films of the past 10 years.
THE TREE OF LIFE
Pitt stars as Mr. O’Brien in this Palme d’Or-winning film that chronicles the meaning of life through the families memories in the light and aftermath of a tragedy.
2. “The Tree of Life” (2011) The connection between a man’s childhood, his unknowable future and the creation of the universe itself intertwine in Malick’s most mindbogglingly expansive narrative feature. “The Tree of Life” stars Sean Penn, whose memory of his abusive father, played by Brad Pitt, and his angelic mother, played by Jessica Chastain, take the exact form of memory — disjointed at the start of his existence, sometimes inexplicable, and then gradually coalescing into a distinct storyline that’s fascinatingly specific and, simultaneously, completely universal. To watch “The Tree of Life” is to walk inside another human being’s mind, wander through their whole existence, and emerge enlightened.
William Bibbiani | December 17, 2019 @ 1:04 PM
When Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life was released to great acclaim back in 2011, new work from the revered Texas filmmaker was still a rare treat. He never made movies at the same pace as his New Hollywood peers in the ’70s, and even with a slight uptick in productivity following the 20-year break between Days Of Heaven in 1978 and The Thin Red Line in 1998, Malick was still averaging approximately one movie per decade. With Tree Of Life, which felt in so many ways like the film Malick had been working toward for nearly 40 years, it seemed as if his entry for the 2010s was simply arriving a little early, perhaps as a career-capping statement. It’s certainly easy enough to picture Malick finishing the movie and then ascending to whatever mystical-looking beach he imagines we reach at the end of our earthly adventures.