Let's get the things we already know about the ambitious film out of the way first: It stars Brad Pitt as a stern but ultimately disappointed father of three boys in 1950s Texas, Jessica Chastain as his luminescent wife and Sean Penn as one of their grown-up sons many years later; there is little in the way of linear narrative or dialogue outside of breathy voiceovers contemplating the existence and disposition of God; there are lengthy sequences of volcanoes erupting, cells dividing and many other awe-inspiring natural phenomena that recall both "Nova" and "2001: A Space Odyssey"; and, yes, there are CGI dinosaurs.
A tough sell to be sure, especially for Americans who would rather stick with the familiar territory of "The Hangover Part II" or "Kung Fu Panda 2" than a meditation on how the lives of this family coincide with the birth of the entire universe (enter the dinosaurs), but stay with me. What the film lacks in traditional box office appeal, it more than makes up for in stunning visual effects and a unique, poetic perspective on family, faith, loss of innocence and reconciliation that will stay with you long after you may finish scratching your head at the film's conclusion.
The complaints about "The Tree of Life" center around the fact that while some plot and conflict is established, nothing ever really happens. It's more or less true, but it misses the point. In as spiritually minded a movie as "The Tree of Life," it only makes sense that the journey would be the destination. Or, as the film's stars put it at a press conference in Cannes: "It's like (Malick) is waiting with a butterfly net to catch what was going by that day," Pitt said.
The comments on CNN were hardly favorable to the film, so we'll just have to see what this film about life and faith has to say if you see it in the theatre. Here's the trailer: