The Tree of Life

Rated 5.0

Terrence Malick’s lavishly “experimental” production is strange and beautiful and, at least part of the time, enthralling. With a complicated time scheme, shifting point-of-view, and a sort of mosaic approach to storytelling, it’s a fragmented family drama moving associatively through past, present, dream-time and spirit vision. The emotional and spiritual conflicts among the O’Briens, a Midwestern family of five in the 1950s, provide something like a conventional narrative anchor, but The Tree of Life is less concerned with telling a story than with evoking what is ultimately a spiritual vision. Several members of the O’Brien family loom large in all this, particularly with a stolid Brad Pitt and the ethereal Jessica Chastain as the parents. But the pivotal character is Jack, the eldest of three sons, who is played by Sean Penn in the present-day scenes and a haunted-looking Hunter McCracken as the child of the 1950s. The adult Jack’s memories and obsessions are the ultimate organizing principle for the film’s free-floating imagery, while his father and mother are the poles around which his own internal contradictions revolve. Pageant Theatre. Rated PG-13