The Tree of Life

Out Now On-Demand

1950s-set drama from filmmaking master Terrence Malick (Badlands, The Thin Red Line), starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. Winner of the Palme d'Or (Best Film) at Cannes Film Festival 2011.

An impressionistic story of a Midwestern family in the 1950s, the film follows the life of eldest son, Jack (Penn, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Pitt) while questioning the existence of faith. "Malick draws a picture of family life as archetypal as a child’s questions about God, and connects it all to rapturous visions of the origins of the universe and the end of time." (NZ International Film Festival 2011)



Winner of the Palme d'Or (Best Film) at Cannes Film Festival 2011.

Directed by

Written by



Rating: M contains adult themes


Official Site

“Toscanini once recorded a piece 65 times,” says frustrated musician Brad Pitt to his three young sons (led by Hunter McCracken). “You know what he said when he finished? ‘It could be better.’” Malick put a similar level of artistic endeavour into this much-lauded near-masterpiece. An attempt to come to terms with the suicide of his brother (represented here by Laramie Eppler), this is a film so intimate it fictionalises the director’s childhood recollections, and so ambitious it rewinds back to the beginning of time to do so. Adaptation tried the same thing, albeit as a gag.

In the first 45 minutes alone we witness the Big Bang, CG dinosaurs and the birth of mankind, as Sean Penn (McCracken as an adult), Pitt and long-suffering mother/wife Jessica Chastain beg the universe for answers. It’s confounding, borderline pretentious, stuff, but there’s no denying the emotional weight it lends – imagine flicking through a Bible and someone’s baby book at once.

Shot as if by an all-seeing deity, and edited like a stream-of-consciousness Stand By Me, the middle section of the film is the most affecting. We watch McCracken and co buckle under Pitt’s brutal tutelage and blossom in their mother’s love, Penn/Malick’s memories wafting back willy-nilly like sunshine through the clouds. Perhaps impatient viewers should consider the film’s more cosmic concerns as extravagant bookends to a beautiful – if baffling – family drama. Could The Tree of Life be shorter, clearer, easier to grasp? For sure. Could it be better? Not a chance.

A.V. Club (USA)


In terms of scale, The Tree Of Life recalls the mammoth ambition of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," but it's also more intimate and personal than Malick's previous films, rooted in vivid memories of growing up in '50s Texas.

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert)


The only other film I've seen with this boldness of vision is Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," and it lacked Malick's fierce evocation of human feeling.

Empire (UK)


There is simply nothing like it out there: profound, idiosyncratic, complex, sincere and magical; a confirmation that cinema can aspire to art.

Hollywood Reporter


A beauteous creation that ponders the imponderables, asks the questions that religious and thoughtful people have posed for millennia and provokes expansive philosophical musings along with intense personal introspection.

Los Angeles Times


While Malick's great ability holds us for a time, it is finally not enough to compensate for a lack of dramatic involvement - those eschatological quandaries tend to overwhelm the story. The Tree of Life, its enormous advantages notwithstanding, ends up a film that demands to be admired but cannot be easily embraced.

New York Times


With disarming sincerity and daunting formal sophistication The Tree of Life ponders some of the hardest and most persistent questions, the kind that leave adults speechless when children ask them.

Sunday Star Times (Kate Mead)


It is clear there are religious themes and while watching this film we are supposed to ponder the big questions, like what is the meaning of life?

The Telegraph (UK)


It’s impossible not to marvel at the ambition of The Tree of Life.

Total Film (UK)


Terrence Malick’s spiritual odyssey is baffling, unique and overspilling with wonder.

Variety (USA)


Result is pure-grade art cinema destined primarily for the delectation of Malick partisans and adventurous arthouse-goers.

My Favourite Film

Truly a work of art.





If you have read a few reviews of this film you would have guessed you'd either love or hate it, either way you'll have a strong reaction.

I just had a look at FLICKS viewers reviews, and find it amusing that all the bad reviews are from people who don't or hardly ever review films, and the good ones are from obvious movie fanatics with numerous reviews under their belt ... I think this speaks for itself, really.

This film is philosophical. This film is not to be watched on a small screen. This film is simply a unique masterpiece, even if Joe Blogg does not "get it" !

Turn up, tune in and trip out...

If you surrender to 'Tree of Life' as a slow, meandering, meditation on, well, life, then you're in for a visual, audio and cerebal treat. Like Terrence Malick's 'The Thin Red Line' though - if you go in expecting a traditional linear narrative or Hollywood's standard big screen fare - you're gonna find this pretentious and dull. For me? It's 'Koyaanisquatsi' with movie stars. Think Kubrick's '2001' and Von Trier's 'Melancholia' and turn up, tune in and trip out...

You have to see it on the big screen

A visual gem. Not much dialogue but story is so told with pictures. I'll remember this for a long time


I'm not sure if I liked this Movie or not! The story line seemed to be non-existent with you feeling either completely bored or amazed (by the cinematography). It's worth a watch if you have a spare 3 hours :)

At times beautiful, but equally frustrating

I wish I could write as eloquently as others above, but all the same - here goes. . . .

Whilst this was visually stunning, I found the flashing forward / flashing backward frustrating. I also have to admit that I was confused about what was going on, and what I was supposed to be referencing. The "story" kicks off about 1 hour in and as I tend to enjoy linear stories, this is the part I enjoyed.The exploration of the "American family unit" was certainly interesting, and had some really touching moments.

The last 10 minutes or so - again a bit confusing - I get what it was about, but. . . well - maybe a bit to "arty" for me.

Grace & Nature

Astonishing in its visuals and soundscape, this movie just screams arthouse. That doesn't necessarily make a masterpiece, but I think in this instance a great film has come out of it. Its ambitious in its scope (hey not many folk would stick a 20 minute visual segment about the origins of earth in the middle of a story about family and love.

Lots of reviews have mentioned poetic cinema, tosh and balderdash was what I originally said after reading them, but believe them. Mr Malick is a true cinematic visionary....yeah perhaps I'm pretentious too :)

Go see and be bored, mystified and amazed.....but just go see.





Found this slow and boring. maybe others would enjoy it more


Watched this movie for about an hour but it didn't seem to make much sense and my wife said this is depressing and we decided to leave as it was the worst movie I have ever seen in the last 20 years.

Spectacular but puzzling

Did I even like it? I'm not sure, it's a movie which is going to toss back and forth in my mind for a long time. Without doubt it's a very challenging movie, and one which seemed to divide the full house in half, there were quite a few murmurs in the audience and much restlessness. Me, I didn't feel that way.

Certainly it's not the easiest movie to watch, at times it's incredibly frustrating, it's also very, very pretentious and the ending certainly doesn't allow you to leave the cinema feeling satisfied. BUT, it is also one of the most beautiful and sensitive movies I have ever seen. The visuals are breathtaking. The images of planets aligning, cells splitting, volcano's erupting, they were some of the most incredible images I have ever seen on screen.

The story also had a very poignant theme, and at times caused a very emotional response in me. It's a film which questions how the impact of a father on a son can alter his opinions of what is right or wrong, and indeed the very meaning of life and the existence of God. At times it's pretty brutal cinema (in a good way). Pitt is very, very good in the role of the father, a stern authoritarian, a true father of the 1950s, a character you find yourself despising. And on the other hand you have Young Jack, and his performance was one of the very best I've seen in a young actor this year, probably save Elle Fanning the best, maybe even of the last few years. You feel for him, you understand his rage as he swings from the innocence of childhood under the care of his mother to the anger and hate he has for his father when you gets older, and how he debates whether doing what he is told will actually help him in the end. Penn plays Jack the older man, the man broken by his father, a man who wanders aimlessly through the modern world still trying to find meaning, and while he doesn't have much screen time to project his character, his visual emotions are very evocative.

However, there are also moments of true frustration for me in the movie. It agitated the hell out of me for long periods. I kept telling myself early on, just watch it to experience it, you may not enjoy it, but you will certainly experience something profound. And I did. But for some of the film I was so, so agitated. I wanted it to skip to the story, wondering when a story would start, while at the same time sitting in awe as the visuals engulfed my senses. I did, in the end, just accept the movie for being a directors movie. I could understand why some people left in the screening in the States (no doubt some left here too), but I thought it worth the patience. And it was. I was glad I saw it. It may be a long, long time before I feel the need to watch it again, but it certainly was worth seeing, for me at least. It was a quiet film, a sobering movie, one which divided the audience and my heart. But it was also something quite, I don't know, SOMETHING.