“With extra time spent with the family, the film has a bit more narrative shape, allowing us to delve further into the inner life of Mr. O’Brien (Pitt): We see recollections of his father, a door-to-door salesman who never got any respect from his employers and who died a sudden death.”
-Bilge Ebiri of Vulture.com
“We see glimpses of Mr. O’Brien’s deceased father, whose tragic end clearly shaped the man his son would become.”
Uncle Ray (Jack Hurst), the brother of Mrs. O’Brien, comes floating through town and, like his sister, has a lightness and joy with her sons and problems with their oppressive father. – Chris O’Falt of IndieWire
“There are new characters, but they mostly appear for one scene or section of the film. Uncle Ray (Jack Hurst), the brother of Mrs. O’Brien, comes floating through town and, like his sister, has a lightness and joy with her sons and problems with their oppressive father.”
“Uncle Ray’s power to stand up to his brother-in-law is quickly belittled by the fact he hasn’t been able to find gainful employment. Jack, heartbroken by his uncle’s situation, tries to give his mother his meager savings.”
-Chris O’Falt of IndieWire.com
“One notable addition involves a visit from Jack’s uncle, Mrs. O’Brien’s brother, whom the kids adore and who seems to inspire their sense of play even as he tries to talk some sense into their dad about the way he disciplines his kids and treats his wife. Mr. O’Brien tells the younger man off, calling his brother-in-law an unemployable mooch and suggesting that the man has a nervous condition that has led to him being a failure at life.”
“It’s a fascinating glimpse not just into the dynamics of Jack’s family, but also into Mr. O’Brien’s ideas about what constitutes a responsible citizen. Nervous, sensitive souls and broken people have always been at the heart of Malick’s cinema, and the twisted dance between gritty outward machismo and a chaotic inner life has informed his aesthetic since the very beginning of his career.”
Eight years ago, long before his dazzling and surely Oscar-winning turn this summer in Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Brad Pitt gave a magnificent performance in The Tree of Life as a loving martinet father in 1950s Texas with Sean Penn as his pensive son, ruminating in endless voice-overs about his pains and sorrows and the origins of the universe. This weekend, you can see Pitt in a virtual remake of The Tree of Life, in which he plays the son, not the father. It’s called Ad Astra, and like The Tree of Life, it’s both good and awful.
“Our fathers leave such an indelible mark on us and that relationship is so, so vital,” Pitt says. “My dad had always said he wanted to give us a better life than he had coming from great poverty, and he did that. That in turn makes me think the same way: What do I have to offer that’s better than what I had for my kids?”
For its vast ambition and meditative grace. It somehow manages to be both an intimate memory film while taking on the notion of all of existence. And I love the way it confounds and challenges perception itself.
In March 2019, my wife, daughters, and I set out from Wisconsin to visit Texas for one week. It was a memorable trip that I am grateful for. Since first watching The Tree of Life, visiting Texas to experience where the film took place became a goal.
Among the highlights for me was visiting many of the filming locations of The Tree of Life. While much of the filming took place in Smithville, TX, scenes were also shot in Houston, La Grange, and Austin in addition to several out of state and international shots.
We spent time in Houston visiting my wife’s cousin on Saturday evening, Sunday, and Monday morning. We checked out the Space Center Houston, toured downtown Galveston, and the Houston Zoo.
Although I knew the scenes with Sean Penn included the Houston cityscape, I did not visit the exact locations. On the way out of Houston…
The Tree of Life is unsurprisingly divisive, given it’s an experimental film by Terrence Malick, which basically guaranteed that lots of critics were going to love it and think it profound, and many others were going to find it overly pretentious and slow. Which is what happened when it debuted at Cannes, receiving both cheers and jeers and initially receiving mixed reviews, although later ones skewed more positive. The Tree of Life is a challenging movie, and one that more general film audiences are less likely to love, but one that was also given plenty of praise, including winning the Palme d’Or.