The Tree of Life is not a movie for everybody. That’s probably why it was independently distributed and on limited release. Compared to most movies, The Tree of Life is slow-paced and is certainly not your typical narrative. The expectations of the people who I went to see it with seemed to imply that a movie must follow a protagonist, must have a conflict and must have a resolution. It’s dangerous to appreciate a movie without these things, it seems. Actually, I never thought I would really appreciate a movie without much conflict. I remember My Neighbor Totoro, a good movie for its originality and capturing the beauty of childhood, but without any real sense of conflict for a good half of the movie. I still gave Totoro a 7 out of 10 as a score. This movie takes it a step higher.
8 out of 10
I certainly didn’t love The Tree of Life. The lack of plot or conflict at times is a little grating, if only because the movie could have chosen a route of being completely thematic or completely plot-filled. Of course, if it was completely plot-filled I might have given it the same score and felt a little more intellectually satisfied. My comrades who sat through this whole movie would also likely be more satisfied. However, for those who focus on the themes and symbols of this movie, I think there is quite a bit here that is very emotionally satisfying.
One does have to wonder when the 20 minutes or so of earthlike imagery is demonstrated on-screen what the director is trying to say to us. I think this movie has to have a lot to do with God. I mean, even the title of the movie indicates a reference to the Bible. The movie becomes a reminder of God’s work , and these scenes seem to be especially indicative of that; though I’ve heard some tout it as evolution, it seems more like creation to me. To each his own.
This movie takes not only an open mind, but an open heart. The movie won’t feel slow if you understand where the director is trying to take you. There is a point to the opening scenes. Intermittently, we are reminded of the connection between humans and God. This is especially important. I wish there was more of this than following the family, though I can understand the significance of needing to follow them for some time.
So while the movie isn’t perfect, it’s way better than most movies out this summer. But most viewers will miss this gem. And I say gem with a reason. It’s intricate yet polished; and all the same, confusing. It will probably take me multiple viewings to get more out of it, but I just can’t bring myself to give it lower than a 8 out of 10, even though walking out of the theater I would think a 7 out of 10. I can forgive some of its shortcomings to give credence to the main themes that permeate this film, and they are quite important.