There are "events" that occur occasionally throughout a lifetime; the passing of Haley's Comet, a presidential assassination, and a film from director/writer Terrance Malick.
Since 1973, he has only directed four films, and now his fifth - Tree Of Life starring Brad Pitt - is upon us. Before I go any further, I must make it clear to you that his previous work - The Thin Red Line - was one of the hardest films to review for me. I just couldn't click with it, or understand it. There's not much that's changed over the last six years.
To see if you could get to grips with it during it's 140 minutes, answer yourself this question: do you like the perfume adverts of the last 20 years?...
If the answer is yes, then book your seat now. The first 50 minutes of the film sees imagery upon imagery slowly rolling across the screen with no interactive dialogue what-so-ever. If that hasn't sunk in, take a moment to contemplate that - characters have no conversation with each other... at all for nearly an hour. There is breathless, whispered lines placed over images depicting life seen from a distance - the birth of life itself upon Earth - down to the microscope directed at Pitt and his family. But nothing to help you connect with them as they try and connect with each other.
The story seems to be simply of a brother looking back upon his early years, primarily dealing with one of the brothers he lost at 19, and his see-sawing relationship with his father. Penn, as the older version of the brother has the thankless task of what seems to be just wandering around in depressive reflection, leaving Pitt to dance between doting dad and frightful father during the middle part of the movie.
This simple premise is buried deep within images and choir music that threatens to distance the audience from any emotional connection during the first and final act. The middle part shows what could have been with beautiful moments catching the eye and heart - the child's reaction to his baby brother hitting his face, the mother waking her children using ice cubes - but what is built up by those moments is taken away with the rolling onslaught of what kind of feels like pretentious commentary of life, love and death.
Admittedly unlike anything else that turns up at the cinema, Tree Of Life is an unusual experience that, if you go in with the right frame of mind, it could have you leave feeling perplexed yet only slightly agitated at what it could have been.
Release date: 08.07.11