Malick's 'Tree of Life' an uneven, yet visionary original
Don't expect linear storytelling from Terrence Malick. His rapturous last film, The New World, plunged viewers into first contact between English Puritan colonists and native American peoples without a road map, or a translator, or any idea on either side of the customs and culture of the other. Audiences who expected conventional storytelling were dumbfounded; there was no way in except to surrender to the strangeness—as the colonists and tribespeople themselves must have perceived it—and let the experience wash over you.
Malick's new film, The Tree of Life plunges us into more familiar terrain—growing up in suburban Middle America in the second half of the 20th century—and turns it into something strange and mysterious, a metaphor for the eternal search for grace and meaning in life.