Terrence Malick’s much ballyhooed film “The Tree of Life” tackles the Big Questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? But that’s just the beginning. It also asks the Ultimate Questions: “Why does God allow evil and pain and sorrow to exist? Does God even exist? And what the hell happens to us when we die?
Sorry, seekers. Malick gives it the old college try, but that’s the problem. I hoped for great things from this movie but instead found myself looking at a series of images and a superficial story that looked to me like the brainchild of a college sophomore with a double major in literature and philosophy and a great eye and technical skill with the camera.
Malick’s conclusion, the best I can reckon — after being bombarded for a couple of hours with an endless cascade of lovely images of newborn babies and volcanic eruptions and ocean waves and glimmering galaxies and Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain — is that life is beautiful but it’s also a great mystery that we keep trying to solve but never will because God works in mysterious ways.
Amen. But I knew that already and could have saved myself about twenty bucks and about two and half hours of tedium.
If you don’t mind the prospect of sitting there patiently and politely as God loads up the slide-projector carousel and shows you hundreds of His vacation photos, then go see “The Tree of Life.” But if you’re like me and have trouble sitting still for that sort of thing, then skip the movie and go re-read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.”