Let me preface this with a warning. You will either love this movie, or you will hate this movie. If you watch movies solely to unwind and relax, or be entertained, this movie is not for you. It will frustrate you, bore you, or if you’re tired, assist you in falling asleep.

Tree of Life will make you think, and it will make you reflect. It will cause you to meditate on your life and might actually make you depressed, depending on how well you think you’ve lived it. It will force you to reconsider what you think is important, and where you’re going. If it can’t seduce you into doing any of those things, it will frustrate the hell out of you.

I went into this movie with no clue of what to expect, except the recommendation from my friend’s wife, “David, I think you’ll love this movie.” I watched the movie one Saturday morning with my girlfriend, now fiancee, about a year ago. The movie starts out with a question that I’ve pondered for years, and I don’t know the answer to. I remember the first time I read it in the bible; I was so captivated. I’m not going to give it away, but it sets the tone for the entire film.

Don’t worry, there are no spoilers.

Tree of Life PosterI want to say that this film changed my life, but I can’t say that. It didn’t make me think or feel anything I didn’t think or feel before. It just made me think it harder and feel it more intensely. And more importantly, it made me feel like less of an island. I thought, “Wow, a guy made a movie about the exact questions I’ve asked my whole life, from mostly the same worldview.”

It’s visuals and musical score are spectacular, and the music really tells its own story. The music lets you know what’s coming next; whether to prepare to be awestruck, or relax in peace, or to be moved to tears. It serves as your compass during the 2 hours and 19 minutes, and it’s good. Really good.

I’ve noticed that I’m the type of person that is willing to think thoughts that would scare other people. I’m not threatened by very much, and I’m comfortable feeling uncomfortable. I can listen to Christopher Hitchens, or Richard Dawkins without batting an eye or having an internal crisis. I actually appreciate their perspectives and learn from them. For others, submitting their worldview for dissection and critique is tantamount to Seppuku. This movie threatens your brain, and dissects your thoughts, opinions, memories, and values. You might not be ready for what it makes you confront.

This is the type of film you’ll watch and think about whether you should break up with your girlfriend or propose to her; or why you love or hate your father. It’s one of the best films I’ve ever watched and is definitely in my top 10. It also features one of my top male actors, Brad Pitt, and my single favorite female actress, Jessica Chastain.

There are several rules you must follow when watching this movie.

  1. Turn up the volume. It’s a movie meant to be watched loudly and and attentively. Otherwise you will not hear the whispers, which are a common theme of narration throughout, and crucial for placing the film in context.
  2. Be alert. Don’t watch this movie when you’re tired, parts of it are like a lullaby, and you will fall asleep, especially if you’re in no mood to think.
  3. Don’t watch it in a large group. There will be some caveman or woman who just doesn’t get it, and is frustrated by being forced to think. They’ll make stupid comments and ruin the movie for everyone else. “What is this?” “Why are they whispering?” “I don’t get it.”
  4. Try to watch it with someone you can cuddle with: a wife or husband, a girlfriend or boyfriend, or your child. If you’re not cuddling, or if you’re feeling somewhat lonely, this movie will probably make you cry or hate your life. Not everyone comes from perfect families, or wishes to relive their childhoods and find meaning in how you got to where you are.
  5. You must watch the movie for no less than 39 minutes and 06 seconds. If after that you have no interest in where the film is taking you, it’s best you stop there. It’s a 2 hour and 19 minute long movie.

If you don’t follow those rules, you will not understand the movie, you will fall asleep, or you’ll be frustrated and quit early. It’s really those rules that keep it from being a large group movie, because there will be a segment of people just not ready to watch something that contemplative. Enjoy, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Critical Reception

I was quite entertained by the reviews on IMDB.com. There’s 904 user reviews, and they’re pretty much all like what you see below. The movie scores a 6.8 out of 10 stars in IMDB and an 84% on rotten tomatoes.com.

“The first thing to say about ‘The Tree of Life’ is that it is ESSENTIAL VIEWING for anyone who believes that the cinema is a great art, and an early front-runner for ‘Film of the Decade’.” – Michael Open

“One of the most pretentious pieces of pseudo-intellectual garbage I have ever seen.” – Pekman

“How do you watch such a film? You’ve got to lower any defenses you have. You’ve got to not allow yourself to try to make a sense out of everything you see. You’ve got to take it all, and let it enter you…Make no judgements, consider nothing except the pure experience of being there, wherever the film takes you…Imagine a film about everything, with a remote storyline that talks about every theme, in every possible time of the world.” – ruiresende84

“Go to Youtube find a video of beautiful images from the world. Play some ridiculous opera music. Open a bible and start reading random lines for two and a half hours. Now if anyone asks if you have seen this movie you can say YES” – jmg-90-179895

“I haven’t be so much impressed by a story, a song or a a film from a very long time. It should go without saying, but let me tell you that this is not a film you should see if you just want to stop thinking about your life for a couple of hours.” – Iwould

“I’ve just wasted my time reading 20 IMDb reviews for “Tree of Life”, both love-its and hate-its. They might as well be telling you how they feel about the colour blue. Subjective, subjective, subjective.” – rooprect