In some ways, it reminded me of 2001 A Space Odyssey, another film you either hated or loved. The Tree of Life is an ambitious film that aspires to explore the origins and meaning of life. Where do humans fit into the grand scheme of things? The film attempts to encompass all of existence and view it in the eyes of one family. In part, The Tree of Life is both a metaphysical and reality-based inquiry into the nature of God and His plan for our lives.
We watch Jack grow up through a series of daily life routines, which includes playing, fighting, embracing and loving each family member, crying, and family activities. It becomes clear that The Tree of Life serves as a metaphor for life’s journey.
The Tree of Life is essentially a struggle between these two natures. The boys are exposed to two vastly different world views. There is a conflict between what they are taught in church and what they experience at home. Jack especially struggles as he wants to be good but cannot find the strength to do so. He does what he does not want to do. He asks the question, “If God is not good, why should I be good? As a result, Jack becomes more rebellious, and his relationship with his father deteriorates, even to the point that he wants his father dead.
Terrence Malick has created a beautiful film. The images are mesmerizing and thought-provoking. Perhaps, he could have cut 10 or 20 minutes out of the run time of the 139 minute film; nevertheless, the film he has created has the ability to touch us on a very human level. His themes are universal because we all find ourselves caught between grace and nature. I see few movies that tackle these complicated and thought-provoking issues.
If you approach this movie with an open mind, you may very well come away with something very profound about you and the pathway you have chosen. The world we live in is confusing because, essentially, we have been taught two conflicting pathways. The Tree Of Life presents a strong case that trying to be a good person is not enough. We are going to have to look for something larger than ourselves. We’re going to look for God and find his nature.