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Languid, reverent shots of nature shimmering at magic hour – Terrence Malick is back. The auteur behind the impressionistic odes Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line and The New World has finally released his impatiently anticipated fifth film – and she’s an absolute beauty.
Tree of Life is arguably his boldest in scope, as Malick uses the story of a 1950s Texan family as an anchor to quite literally zoom out to capture the majesty of the cosmos, and whisper to God. This visual microcosm/macrocosm duet is echoed in the clear thematic dichotomy between the forces of “nature” and “grace”, each personified by Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt) and Mrs. O’Brien (Jessica Chastain) as they are remembered by their eldest son Jake (Sean Penn and Hunter McCracken).
Malick’s films epitomise the cinematic experience, and Tree of Life is no exception. In fact, many of the film’s impossibly intricate montages would be at home in an art gallery. Questions of indulgence and even pretension may rise to the minds of some, but approaching the film as a symphony (complete with an entrancing soundtrack) should allow Tree of Life to transcend its epic narrative and tap directly into your heart.