The Tree of Life

This is a tough one. Look at a site like Rotten Tomatoes and you will see very high ratings from critics coupled with very low ratings by the general public. This definitely falls into the “love it or hate it” category.

We see a scene of a family in the 1950’s. The film then goes back to the beginning to show how we arrived at this point. I’m not talking “beginning” in the sense of boy-meets-girl when the husband and wife first meet. I mean “beginning” as in watching dust clouds form into planets.

I am not kidding.

It takes a while to get back to the family. We watch planets collide, volcanoes erupt, and water in various settings as life grows from self-replicating cells all the way through dinosaurs and mammals.

From there the film alternates between showing various scenes from the history of the family and scenes from the history of the universe. This film isn’t driven by a plot or story so much as an attempt to show us how the smallest of things and the biggest of things are all related.

The pacing is very slow and deliberate. Everything is given time to sink in. This is good when a scene resonates with the viewer, but very tedious otherwise. The film has many beautiful moments. Many scenes of the family life are very touching. Scenes of the natural world are visually stunning. The problem is that they keep interrupting one another. As pretty as some of the natural scenes were, they resulted in long stretches of the film passing by without me having anything to care about. Despite the many beautiful moments contained in the film, I found myself thinking at several points “this is pretty, but I am not enjoying myself.”

This film tried to do a lot. There are gems contained within and some of them will stick with me for a while. It is a beautiful film in many ways, but not necessarily an entertaining one. It would have been a fantastic 20-minute short, but as a 2-1/2 hour film I can’t recommend it.

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