Unsolicited Film Review: The Tree of Life

by Thomas Brady


I saw Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” a while back, and I’ve been ruminating on a review.

Thing is: I’m just not qualified.

This is a thick movie. If this movie were a meal, it would include many courses. They’d all be simple, and if you were paying attention you would notice several flavors that showed up again and again. There would be old-school comfort foods, and there would be exotic dishes that you couldn’t quite tell, visually, were edible.

And you might not like all of it. Apparently a lot of people have been walking out of the theater. I won’t judge these people. Partly because I have no right. That’s always been the case, though, and it hasn’t stopped me before. The other reason I won’t judge them is that this movie goes some weird places. I don’t want to ruin anything, though I fear I already have, but if you don’t get the context set by the opening title card, you might be really frustrated by a good third of the movie - a third that is peppered throughout the film in chunks ranging in length from a few dozen seconds to a quarter of an hour.

If you drew a Venn diagram of the type of person likely to be moved by this movie I would sit squarely in the scalloped little center. This movie death with relationships between God and man, father and son, mother and son, husband and wife. It dealt with prayer, growing up, childhood memories and lots more. It was like a two-hour visual representation of most visits with my therapist.

And what visuals. It’s a beautiful movie.

It didn’t hurt that it was filmed in Texas. I don’t know exactly where, but it was odd how obvious it was to me. The neighborhoods just looked like home to me. The grasses and trees and houses all looked familiar. And the city-life, standing in stark contrast with its metal and glass, was all very familiar. It was obviously shot in Houston, much of it at Williams Tower, just a couple miles from where I spent the first twenty-something years of my life. That building is one of the first things I picture when I hear the word “skyline.”

This is a bold statement, and typically one that’s hard for me to make, but this may turn out to be my favorite movie.