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The Tree of Life DVD

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Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain, this film, written and directed by Terrence Malik, follows the lives of a Texan family (from Waco) in the 1950s. The story focuses on Jack (Hunter McCracken/Sean Penn) the eldest of 3 boys and shows his journey from innocent childhood, through troubled adolescence and into adulthood. Now a disillusioned middle aged architect, Jack looks back and reminisces on events from his early life. He remembers growing up under the influence of a bullying disciplinarian father and gentle religious mother and is still deeply affected by the receipt of the shocking news of the death of his younger brother aged 19. He compares his own small existence with the creation and existence of the whole universe and ultimately questions the meaning of life. This ambitious, controversial, beautifully presented film won the coveted Palme d'Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

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Please note this is a region 2 DVD and will require a region 2 or region free DVD player in order to play The impressionistic story of a Texas family in the 1950s The film follows the life journey of the eldest son Jack through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt) Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith Directed by Terrence Malick

Brad Pitt and Sean Penn star in Terrence Malick's ambitious, fantasy-tinged, coming-of-age tale. Jack (Hunter McCracken) is one of three brothers brought up in the 1950s by his spiritually-minded mother (Jessica Chastain) and pragmatic, no-nonsense father (Pitt). After witnessing a disturbing event that shakes his world to the core, the young Jack struggles to reconcile the differing world views of his parents. Later, as a jaded middle-aged man with a failed marriage behind him, Jack (Penn) retraces his emotional journey from the hope and innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years in a quest to rediscover meaning in his life.

  • Average Rating for The Tree of Life - 5 out of 5


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  • The Tree of Life
    John Attridge

    If you had to pick out the most divisive, frustrating, beautiful film of 2011, I don't think there are many who have seen it who wouldn't immediately pick out 'The Tree of Life'. It's a film that can't be neatly wound into any kind of linear synopsis; one that you can't quite describe, explain or summarise for others - people really do have to go and see for themselves what the fuss is all about. Nevertheless, it is also a film that worms it's way inside your head and refuses to budge, so despite my reservations, I am going to attempt as much of a 'review' of the film as I suppose is possible.

    For the bulk of the narrative, director Terrence Malick (Badlands, The Thin Red Line) is concerned with the childhood of Jack O'Brien (played by the excellent newcomer Hunter McCracken), a bright boy growing up in 1950's Texas with his younger brothers, looked after by his loving and gentle mother (Jessica Chastain) and a strict, unforgiving father (Brad Pitt). We witness his innocent and carefree early years, where he enjoys playing in the streets and being the apple of his mother's eye; and then the onset of early adolescence, where the suppressed rage for his father's cruel treatment of the family finally begins to emerge. You might think this sounds like any conventional 'coming-of-age' tale, but Malick films the action from idiosyncratic angles and with a distorted lens, while delicate voice-overs help highlight how each of the characters are feeling at particular moments of crisis.

    And then there is the other portion of the film, which no amount of words or adjectives will be able to properly and accurately convey. Suffice to say that, interwoven throughout the primary story are scenes that at first sight have little to do with a boy's life in the 1950's. And despite being stunningly beautiful for the most part (kudos to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki) they are also genuinely confusing. We initially see Jack as an adult (now played by Sean Penn), working as an architect in an unnamed city but apparently unhappy and distanced from his family - so far so understood. But after a phone call from Jack's mother, Malick treats us to a spectacular sequence that stretches from the origins of the universe, the sun and planet Earth (all set to classical music, including Mozart's famous "Lacrimosa") to the extinction of the dinosaurs and birth of modern man. And later, after most of the film is over, we see again see Jack as an adult, now reunited with his seemingly ageless parents and siblings, no longer in a city but abandoned, or stranded on a landscape that stretches far across to the horizon. But why?

    There's no denying the scenes with Sean Penn are less emotionally affecting at first; they feel too detached and irrelevant. But as the film hurtles toward it's momentous finale, we get the chance to view things from an alternative perspective, just as the adult Jack must re-evaluate his childhood in later life. Suddenly, all those 'existential' scenes that felt superfluous - the creation of the Universe, dinosaurs, dying stars, heaven? - add gravity and pathos to the message you found at the core of the picture. But the truly great thing about these abstract moments is that each one will say something different to each member of the audience, and put the 'linear' tale of the O'Brien's in a different light each time. Malick seems determined to translate the moving image into real, philosophical -and most importantly, personal - meaning.

    The cast are fantastic across the board too. Pitt breaks down all those 'pretty-boy' criticisms with a raw and powerful performance of a man just trying to do good by his family according to the world in which they live, while the luminous Chastain is a model of virtue and grace. Both really make you believe in Malick's re-creation of the mid-twentieth century, but it is McCracken's performance that makes you feel the pain and confusion of growing up. He's definitely a face to watch for the future.

    The picture's debut at Cannes last year was met with an outrageous mix of boos and cheers, and despite going on to win the prestigious Palme d'Or (not to mention nabbing Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Director), it continues to split opinion among critics and audiences. Some will find it pretentious, boring, too long and overwrought - and despite my love for the film I can totally see where those people are coming from. But for me my initial feelings of confusion and anxiety gently grew into admiration and respect for such a beautifully crafted picture. It's a completely original way of examining humanity's place in the universe, and if it strikes you in the right way, you won't be able to help falling for it. But whether you end up loving it or hating it, one thing's for sure - you won't be able to see it without talking about it afterwards.

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