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.