I am beginning the annual catch up on the Oscar nominated films. Ideally I get to watch ALL of the Best Picture nominees but with now up to 10 films it’s not always that easy. This year I am done with three and now four. I have seen The Descendants (mostly), War Horse, Hugo and now The Tree of Life.
Tree of Life: This was a film that I had relatively no expectations. I had read the glowing Ebert review as he reminisced about how closely this movie pulled him in with the images of the time (50s middle America). He has written a couple interesting articles on this and it intrigued me. The movie is not about plot and a straight lined arc in the lives of its characters. It makes both macro and micro observations about life and life on earth in general. Many of the connections you have to make yourself (or not). Two heavy hitters with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn are acting here, but they are really not the focal point. On the micro level you deal with life on a planet in the universe after the big bang. There are stunning visuals and images that are totally new to me. You have life coming out of the seas and then other forms of life. What I came away with the macro story is just how BIG it all is, and just how little (in comparison) that we all are. There is also a theological discussion that takes place and questions for God. Much of this stems from the micro level life of an ordinary family in middle America (in this case Texas) but it really could be anywhere.
Here the family starts at the more recent time and then deals with images backwards. There has been a death in the family and there is questioning as to why. Then the flashbacks to the times with this family. I take away from this that life, as we experience it, is really a sum of little images and moments. The unexpected hug from a child, the kiss goodnight, the images as perceived of a child with his parents, and how their relationship impacts them. The family has three boys. Pitt plays the father. Penn plays the eldest boy Jack all grown up. You care about these people. You see the journey that they take but it isn’t along a straight path. Life is a bunch of moments strung together. And so it is. Struggles, challenges, understanding where one fits and the place that they have. All a part of this, as macro meets micro along the way.
This cannot win Best Picture. Why? Because it is just too high minded I think. The average movie goer (the film was virtually ignored in the theaters) simply won’t “get it”. It can be slow. It raises as many questions as it answers, simply because it doesn’t answer that many. It observes. And let’s the viewer figure out the meaning. I also think that this is a film for older and more mature viewers. This is not a 17yo date movie. That older crowd that watched Iron Lady would enjoy this and connect with this. I did. Having children, thinking about the structure that we as parents provides, makes you think about where this fits in the grand scheme. It shows too how attitudes and actions in front of children have an impact. What the child remembers.
I would see it again. I would catch more and pay more attention to the beginning. In the end, time well spent last night, where after the movie I decided to watch the Extras as well on the DVD. The director here is painting with a broad brush and giving some real insight into human beings. I am really glad that I saw this.