Movie Review: The Tree of Life

Miguel Moreno, Writer

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The general public has heard of big names such as Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain. What they may not know is that all these names worked in a 2011 movie called The Tree of Life. This movie was praised in big film festivals including Cannes-winning the Palme D’OR which is the highest prize awarded at the festival. What makes this movie so acclaimed?

“The Tree of Life” is a great (if not the greatest) example of modern cinema, partially because of its inclusion of pass down theory with new technology, getting all these elements and combining them together to create an experimental narrative.

Tree of Life movie poster

Tree of Life movie poster

The plot is an important part of why this is a great example of modern cinema. However what is not important and many people seem to forget this is the understanding of the story. Viewers tend to forget that the understanding and laying out of all the elements of a movie is NOT the ultimate goal for every movie (especially not this movie).

A key element in this narrative is the element of the mystery. In fully not understanding the concept of the movie draws the viewer to search for answers, to look in the details of the movie, and ultimately to find the one answer which was not given directly in the screen.

Looking back to the history of cinema, we look at how we tell our stories. On May 27 of 1977, Star Wars, a movie which revolutionized special effects, told an interstellar movie. On March 31, 1999, a movie is released which moved us towards computer-generated-image (or CGI), The Matrix.

There were other steps in the timeline of special effects movie but these two movies define for their time what storytelling was at their time. However these two movies are filled with CGI and other special effects. The Tree of Life uses CGI to show that in modern cinema CGI is a very important part of today’s storytelling narratives

After watching this movie three times, I am still not able to see what the movie truly is about. I understand the loss of a brother and how it’s dealt with in the future and their childhood experiences.

That is all I understand about it, and I am at peace with that. I do not look into the understanding of the story because that would be like a fish trying to climb a tree.

Looking for an answer that was not meant to be searched, because The Tree of Life is not about the story, it is about the experience where God meets man in the beginning of time, where the future collides with the past, and life’s cycle is finished and starts with death.

This movie reminds us that movies are not about telling a story, it is how you tell a story, the importance of the execution, and the story is just a small percentage of what you’re supposed to do. And that is what modern cinema is supposed to be about.

You don’t have to be a director, a film critic, or anyone who works in the industry to enjoy it. If you ever have the chance to watch The Tree of Life for the first time, watch it, I would if I could.

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