My Review of Tree of Life

My husband called today and asked if the kids and I wanted to meet him after work and go to "The Tree of Life." He'd read a review of it and it sounded like something we'd like. The review said it was filled with symbolism that LDS people would enjoy. I foolishly invited my parents to come along.

Well, I'm LDS. I appreciate symbolism. I enjoy artistic, thought-provoking and beautiful things. And I thought it was a random, convoluted mess. 

Sure, there were a few bright spots. At the beginning of the movie, in a soft, whispered, almost impossible to hear and understand voice over, the mother talks about the difference between grace and nature. I'm paraphrasing because I've only seen the movie once and I'll never see it again, but if I remember correctly, it was something like grace tolerates insult and pain, loves, and forgives. Nature on the other hand, takes what it wants and thinks of itself. I allowed myself to be a little excited by those opening words. I thought they were beautiful and I thought maybe it meant we were in for a treat.

Instead we were in for random, meaningless mini-scenes that were trying so hard to be meaningful that they were often laughable. The creation is shown. It was pretty for the first few minutes. But then it dragged on so long that it lost its impact. We saw clouds, volcanoes, jellyfish and other sea creatures. And then we saw dinosaurs. And not very good ones. And we saw one laying by the water and then we saw another one come and step on its head for no reason and then bound off through the water. Hmm. If there was some deep and profound meaning here, I missed it.

The movie starred a mumbling Sean Penn and a brooding and dysfunctional Brad Pitt. Pitt avoided his pretty boy persona by jutting out his jaw and lower lip in a strange way for much of the movie. I found it distracting.

There were so many odd and random scenes that we kept thinking of different ones all the way home. And that was an hour. There was the dad playing poker for no reason. The mother washed her feet in the hose after hanging up the laundry. At one point, for only a second, she spun around, floating through the air by a large tree. The oldest son spied on the neighbor. He sneaked into a neighbor's house and stole a slip and for a second hid it under a plank and then sent it floating down the river. Several times, for no reason that furthered the story, we saw Brad Pitt walking through his place of business. He went to China and Germany but we have no idea why, only that the children and his wife were thrilled to have him gone and jumped on the beds together.

I could go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on. Hopefully you get my point. We thought it might never end.

The best part of the movie is that Jessica Chastain was beautiful--sometimes stunningly beautiful. And she wore great clothes.

One comment left on the above review was critical and condescending to anyone who didn't love the movie, giving the impression that if we were a little smarter we'd have understood it. 

I went with my smart parents, my smart husband, and my smart children. And I don't consider myself an intellectual half-wit either. All of us left the theater laughing and shaking our heads at the pomposity of the entire thing.

(Image from


Lisa said...

Thanks for the review ... just saved me time and money because I will trust your review over that of the "professional" critics. Kind of sad though because I was looking forward to this movie based on the previews.

Anonymous said...

My advice is...don't go! I just sat there in shock and couldn't stop thinking of all the things I could be accomplishing at home, or serving my neighbor! LMH

Smriti said...

Yep karey, for simple and straight review.some how i also agree with you.i m an Indian research scholar working on cinema.i saw this movie wid great expectation but didnt get any meaning.No doubt images were fantastic but how they were conveying the difference between nature and grace i didnt get that.At last i thought that i m not a disciplined cinema goer thats why i am unable to understand it.but your opinion on this movie is insisting me that i should not doubt my self thanks