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The Tree of Life

Nothing stands still. 

Year: 2011 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: This film is expected to have certain elements which are subtitled, but it is not expected that the entire film will contain them. 
Directed by Terrence Malick 
Starring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain  
An image from The Tree of Life

Often cited as one of the greatest movies ever made (including, frequently, by me), there are few movies quite like The Tree of Life; a life-affirming cosmic epic on a massive, intimate scale with Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn and some CGI dinosaurs to boot, charting the simultaneous childhood of a young boy in Texas in the 1950s, his disillusioned middle-age and the birth of the universe itself, intertwined as a single grand saga – it’s one of very few movies I could wholeheartedly call a life-changing experience, one to be had as soon and as grandly as one can, on the biggest screen showing it.

Tomas Caldon

The prestigious Palm d’Or winner of the 64th Cannes Film Festival explores the origins of life, the process of growth, and the loss of innocence of the adolescent. From acclaimed auteur director Terrence Malick and starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, The Tree of Life is a film that can bring you a profound and poetic cinematic experience.

The film follows the birth and life journey of Jack (Hunter McCracken and Penn) in 1950s Texas, where he and his two younger brothers have a liberal and marvellous childhood. The parenting differs to a large extent – the stern father Mr. O’Brien (Pitt) tries to teach his sons skills that will suit them well in the modern world, while the loving mother Mrs. O’Brien (Chastain) approaches the kids in a graceful and merciful way. Young Jack is torn between the two and is determined to experiment and discover the world around him by himself. Time flashes by, and adult Jack is detached from the capitalistic society and mournful of his brother’s early death, at the same time reminiscing the old days. This lost soul is now seeking the meaning of life and the heart for forgiveness.

With a signature visual style and the inspiration from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Malick once again uses gorgeous cinematography and elegant music to create this impressionistic masterpiece. The combination of these elements is designed specifically to evoke a certain kind of emotion in different scenes, accompanied with arguably the best performance by Brad Pitt in his acting career and the talented, naturalistic young actors that give the film tremendous energy. The Tree of Life is yet another must-watch classic created by Terrence Malick after Days of Heaven, Badlands and The Thin Red Line.

Victor Luk

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Screenings of this film:

2011/2012 Spring Term (35mm)
2011/2012 Spring Term (35mm)
2023/2024 Summer Term (digital)