- Fox Searchlight
- In theaters now
The Tree of Life is one of the greatest movies ever made. There, I said it.
Now, the caveats. Terrence Malick’s long in the works epic about the yin and yang of nature and grace is so personal and specific that those not tuned in to its rhythms will find it interminable. But if it works for you, as it did for me, I’m hard-pressed to think of another movie that has ever used the medium of film more effectively.
It starts in the middle and then goes back to the beginning, and when I say back to the beginning I mean the dawn of time. We see mysterious lights, signaling the creation of the universe. We see volcanoes erupting, creating the continents. We see torrential rains, creating the oceans. And we see the origins of life, cells that turn into amoebas that turn into small creatures that turn into great dinosaurs. This where we came from as physical beings. Then we see where we came from as emotional beings. The birth of a child. The freedom of early life. The everyday magic of an afternoon spent in the front yard. Then we have to start obeying rules. We begin to feel pain. We see sadness and oppression. We lose people we love.
These are universal emotions, rendered with incredible intimacy by Malick and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and a team of editors led by Hank Corwin. I can see how the film doesn’t work for some, but for me, I was with it for every second of its 139 minutes. There are countless ideas, images and themes I’ve rarely if ever seen a film tackle before, chief among them the significance and insignificance of a single life in the scheme of the universe. The Tree Of Life stares into the vastness of the cosmos, boldly aspires to greatness, and reaches it.