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The Tree of Life Review Critics


Dave White Profile

Boxing with God. Read full review


Grae Drake Profile

Cinematic Dumbbells for your Brain Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    A shape-shifting film, it resembles a poem. At other moments, it is closer to a symphony. Most often, it approximates a fervent prayer.

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  • 83

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Lisa Schwarzbaum

    Malick clings to the promise of grace: His vision of the afterlife is a dreamy beach, enhanced by an excellent playlist of fine classical music, and promising the peace that surpasses all understanding. Plus a beautiful sky.

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  • 90

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    Daring in concept, occasionally daffy in execution and ultimately unforgettable, Mr. Malick's film offers a heartfelt answer to the question of where we humans belong - with each other, on this planet, bound by love.

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  • 90

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Todd McCarthy

    Brandishing an ambition it's likely no film, including this one, could entirely fulfill, The Tree of Life is nonetheless a singular work, an impressionistic metaphysical inquiry into mankind's place in the grand scheme of things that releases waves of insights amid its narrative imprecisions.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 13+

Unique, difficult, poetic masterpiece about life and death.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that, even more so than his previous movies, this drama from legendary and elusive director Terrence Malick is a work of poetic images rather than a cohesive, solid story. The main theme seems to be family relationships, but it all takes place within a huge universal context of infinite time, space, and even dreamscapes. There's the suggestion of simmering violence on the part of the father, but while he often yells, he very rarely lashes out physically. Language is minimal; a flashback sequence contains passing visual references to sexual reproduction. But even though there's not a huge amount of age-inappropriate content for teens, younger viewers are likely to be bored; this movie requires a great deal of patience and the ability to embrace new and unique cinematic encounters.

  • Families can talk about the film's underlying violence. Why is the father so angry and frustrated? How does he express it, and why?
  • What does the grown son actually learn during his quest? Does the movie have a happy, or hopeful, ending?
  • Who do you think this movie is intended to appeal to? What message is it trying to convey to its audience?

The good stuff
  • message true1

    Messages: The movie wrestles with some big and universal themes. The kids begin to behave badly, mainly in response to their father's all-encompassing anger and frustration. But when one grows up, he begins to realize that all things are connected, specifically families and nature. In a kind of dream/fantasy sequence, he learns empathy and tolerance for his family. In general, all of these themes -- and others -- are not literally outlined. They're up for interpretation and debate.

  • rolemodels true0

    Role models: Certainly the father is no role model. He's bitter and miserable and takes out his frustrations on his family. He keeps preaching that, to get ahead in the world, you have to be ruthless. His oldest son, Jack, struggles with these teachings his whole life, but in the end -- in a kind of dream/fantasy sequence -- he seems to reconnect with his family and find a kind of inner peace, though this revelation is very abstract.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: Most of the violence is just under the surface. The father is constantly angry and threatening, but he rarely lashes out in a physical way -- though in one scene, he tries to slap one of his boys for talking back at the dinner table. A boy drowns in a swimming pool. A little blood is on display during a poetic flashback sequence. Two boys play with a BB gun, and one is shot in the finger. Other scenes include some mildly disturbing imagery.

  • sex false1

    Sex: There's something akin to a "creation of life" montage with some peripherally sexual images; viewers see a pregnant woman, and later they see her with her newborn baby.

  • language false1

    Language: "Hell," "my God," and one character says "get 'em by the nuts."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: In brief sequences, there are hints of secondary characters smoking, though none of the main characters or kids actually smokes.