Contender: ‘Tree of Life’

The Contenders 2011

Terrence Malick is one of a handful of American filmmakers with an unmistakable auteurial stamp: whispery, internal voice-over monologues meld with seemingly random, if exquisite, shots of nature to form a kind of ethereal narrative that defies established storytelling conventions.

For “Tree of Life,” which won the Palm d’Or at Cannes, the writer-director has arguably tackled his most ambitious project to date: combining the personal with the cosmic he juxtaposes a coming-of-age story within a tight-knit, suburban-Texas family during the Eisenhower era with a meditation on the origins of the universe.

The nurturing mother, played by this year’s It Girl, Jessica Chastain, is said to represent grace, while the authoritarian father, limned by Brad Pitt, mirrors nature in all of its Darwinian manifestations. As usual in Malick’s films, much of the drama is driven by imagery and music, with the four-time, Oscar-nominated Emmanuel Lubezki’s floating camerawork and Alexandre Desplat’s score, with an assist from Bach, Berlioz, Brahms and Mahler, among several others, doing the heavy lifting.

And yet the film affords Pitt some of his most sensitive and acclaimed work, and Malick’s visionary tone poem has elicited high hosannas that have compared it favorably to Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” in all its metaphysical grandeur and head-scratching abstraction. But even if one isn’t a true believer, the film is considered one of the arthouse hits of the year, proving that you can have your cake and eat it too.

Release date: May 27
Fox Searchlight
Read the Variety review

More Film

  • Anita Hill

    Anita Hill Chairs Hollywood Anti-Sexual Harassment Commission Formed by Top Execs

    Terrence Malick is one of a handful of American filmmakers with an unmistakable auteurial stamp: whispery, internal voice-over monologues meld with seemingly random, if exquisite, shots of nature to form a kind of ethereal narrative that defies established storytelling conventions. For “Tree of Life,” which won the Palm d’Or at Cannes, the writer-director has arguably […]

  • Warren Beatty

    Arnon Milchan Sues Warren Beatty Over 'Rules Don't Apply' Flop

    Terrence Malick is one of a handful of American filmmakers with an unmistakable auteurial stamp: whispery, internal voice-over monologues meld with seemingly random, if exquisite, shots of nature to form a kind of ethereal narrative that defies established storytelling conventions. For “Tree of Life,” which won the Palm d’Or at Cannes, the writer-director has arguably […]

  • Oscar Isaac Addams Family

    Oscar Isaac in Talks to Voice Gomez Addams in Animated 'Addams Family' Movie

    Terrence Malick is one of a handful of American filmmakers with an unmistakable auteurial stamp: whispery, internal voice-over monologues meld with seemingly random, if exquisite, shots of nature to form a kind of ethereal narrative that defies established storytelling conventions. For “Tree of Life,” which won the Palm d’Or at Cannes, the writer-director has arguably […]

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    Publicists for Jennifer Lawrence, Daisy Ridley, Amy Adams Form New Firm

    Terrence Malick is one of a handful of American filmmakers with an unmistakable auteurial stamp: whispery, internal voice-over monologues meld with seemingly random, if exquisite, shots of nature to form a kind of ethereal narrative that defies established storytelling conventions. For “Tree of Life,” which won the Palm d’Or at Cannes, the writer-director has arguably […]

  • Hannah Marks Liana Liberato

    Hannah Marks, Liana Liberato to Star in High School Comedy 'Banana Split'

    Terrence Malick is one of a handful of American filmmakers with an unmistakable auteurial stamp: whispery, internal voice-over monologues meld with seemingly random, if exquisite, shots of nature to form a kind of ethereal narrative that defies established storytelling conventions. For “Tree of Life,” which won the Palm d’Or at Cannes, the writer-director has arguably […]

  • NOR_D01_053017_9621_R2 – L-R: Tom Hanks (Ben

    Steven Spielberg's 'The Post' to Open Palm Springs Film Festival

    Terrence Malick is one of a handful of American filmmakers with an unmistakable auteurial stamp: whispery, internal voice-over monologues meld with seemingly random, if exquisite, shots of nature to form a kind of ethereal narrative that defies established storytelling conventions. For “Tree of Life,” which won the Palm d’Or at Cannes, the writer-director has arguably […]

  • Willa Fitzgerald

    'The Goldfinch' Movie Adaptation Casts Willa Fitzgerald (EXCLUSIVE)

    Terrence Malick is one of a handful of American filmmakers with an unmistakable auteurial stamp: whispery, internal voice-over monologues meld with seemingly random, if exquisite, shots of nature to form a kind of ethereal narrative that defies established storytelling conventions. For “Tree of Life,” which won the Palm d’Or at Cannes, the writer-director has arguably […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content