Tree of Life resurrects the era when Hollywood still aspired to greatness. Not since 2001: A Space Odyssey (or less successfully, The Fountain) has a filmmaker attempted to capture both the origins of life and our ultimate destination. Director Terrence Malick came of age when movies still mattered. And with Tree of Life, only his fifth feature in forty years, Malick has drawn upon ancient biblical wisdom to prod and comfort adventuresome filmgoers. Some will find it tedious and overreaching. But those who surrender to the resplendent images may find the experience unexpectedly healing.
Countless stories have started with the problem of pain. We wonder why the innocent suffer. Why do bad things happen to good people? Tree of Life opens with quotations from the book of Job. In the biblical narrative, Job loses his wife, his children, his health and his home. Friends offer bad advice, blaming him for his ordeal, suggesting he repent from whatever sins caused God to send so much suffering.