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The Tree of Life

Plot: Coming of age story with some beautiful left turns that will either leave you in awe or bewildered. Probably both.

My Thoughts: The first time I watched Tree Of Life I was pretty stunned. I really didn't have a good grip on the film or even how to begin to process it. Something about it struck a strong chord with me though because about an hour later I had to show it to my mom to see what she thought. I thought I would only show her bits and pieces but we ended up watching the whole movie. This was my first time returning to it but it has never been far from my mind since. I have read a bit about it, listened to some podcasts that reviewed it, and occasionally just brought some of the images up on my computer just to let them wash over me a bit. It is certainly safe to say the film has made an impression. I feel safe in saying that I consider this the most spiritual film I have ever seen.

It is not surprising that I am having trouble finding the words to describe a film that has so few. The Tree Of Life is the most beautiful film I have ever seen visually. Because of the left turns the film takes it is easy to forget,when you haven't seen it for a while, how much time we spend in a very small amount of space with a small family. The film is no less striking in these moments than it is when we are seeing the creation of the universe. I love the way the block and home that this family lives in is crafted. The cinematography is always lit perfectly as we are permitted to simply bathe in the images.

In addition to the beauty of the images the story of this family rings true. The struggle of the mother with her husband as she take on the burden of raising three boys. The father certainly comes across as the most flawed character and he crosses the line at points. If we are honest with ourselves who has not crossed the line in times of frustration with our families? A moment that I am ashamed to say struck a familiar chord with me is when the father is upset with one of his boys for how he closes a screen door. He tells the boy on a few occasions not to slam the door, but of course the boy doesn't listen. Not because he doesn't want to listen but because how the screen door is closed is simply not important to him and it doesn't even occur to him until his father has to bring it to his attention again. I have experienced this type of frustration with my boys about more than one, two, or even three things in our house. I let my frustration get the best of me just as this father does, not because I don't love my children but because in those moments I feel that my priorities should be their priorities. I have my sound reason, just as Pitt's character does. He doesn't want the door to get broke. He wants his son to respect the quiet of those around him. Not bad reasons, but they remain a mystery to the boy as they do mine. It creates very natural conflict that are the things of life. The beauty of Malick and this film is he easily conveys this with many many less words than I just typed. It allows it to resonate more with me. It allows me to bring my own frustrations and emotions to the film. It allows me to reflect on the things I need to change in my life to become a better father and the type of father my children deserve. The Tree Of Life succeeds on this level in every scene that involves this family whose journey we are observing.

The mother, played by Jessica Chastain, on the other hand brings pure joy to the film and her children. She is always seen as nurturing and fun loving. Never being upset when her boys are tracking mud or bringing critters into the home. She is a joy to watch as she interacts with the children, her home, and the world around her. I like the juxtaposition between the mother and father. It makes the world feel very grounded in reality. Whether Malick's choice to make the two characters polar opposites is a thematic choice or the way he view his parents really doesn't matter because the experience the children have with both is something I dare say almost everyone has experienced in one way or another.

In the Tree Of Life Malick shows our world as being outside of time while at the same time being completely grounded in time. I think this may be what attracts me to the film most. This family is at the same time 100 percent significant and insignificant. Insignificant because in the grand scheme of a universe that is infinite they will not be remembered. Significant to each other and a creator who is outside of time. Who loves them enough to allow them to be both as cruel and loving to each other as they choose because their eternal existence is where they will find true peace and it is what they were created for.

If there was ever a film that allows itself to be open to interpretation, this is it. Despite that I can't imagine how anyone could not read the beach where everyone is together as heaven and the flicker of light as the intelligence that sets it in motion. As I was watching it rang so true with me and is why I call it the most spiritual movie I have ever seen.

Tree Of Life Is A Prayer: I Thessalonians 5:17 says pray without ceasing. This can be a pretty difficult concept to grasp as time beings. When I think about films as prayer this is the film that lines up with that verse. One of my favorite moments in Tree Of Life is when the mother is asking God where he was in her moment of grief. She asks and immediately Malick cuts to the creation sequence. This is no accident. Malick is showing how God is outside of time. He is there and he cares but not on our physical time frame. God cares first and foremost about our eternal existence. This is also why I love the picture of heaven that Malick creates. A place where time is obsolete.

Outside of time prayer without ceasing is possible. We are called to live in such a way that our very being becomes prayer. Another example of how we miss the fact that God has created all things for our benefit. Prayer can be one of those aspects of God that we look at as him demanding things of us for himself. When we learn what true prayer is it becomes clear that it is for ours.

Tree Of Life has become one of my favorite films. It brings out all the best emotions in me while watching and makes me think about the spiritual nature of humanity in a much deeper way.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in his time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Almost certainly God is not in time. His life does not consist of moments one following another...Ten-thirty-- and every other moment from the beginning of the world--is always Present for Him.-C.S. Lewis