We've been waiting for word on this film for years, waiting for something to tell us whether this is the "redefinition of cinema", as alleged test screenings raved, or merely another good film. Personally, I am a mild fan of Terrence Malick, but I'm not as praising as others. I've tried to get into one of his films, but there has always been a certain prosaic lifelessness to his work that's pushed me back. I was awe struck by the trailer for The Tree of Life, simply because it was oh so beautiful. The plot, on the other hand, just seems rather been-there-done-that. And so the reviews are bound to be good, but there was always going to be some sense of mild disappointment amidst the raves of others.
Guy Lodge (In Contention), ***: "Further fuzzing the question of what The Tree of Life wishes to say about our collective spiritual journey (perhaps it’s that the director is still open to all options, which is no bad thing, though confusing to visualize), it’s a badly misjudged finish to a film that nonetheless has sections so rapturous as to justify the six-year wait since The New World on their own. (That said, the film’s weaknesses may well be the result of an overthought creative process.) Malick’s slow-burn cinema tends to take several viewings to reveal its full arsenal of tactile pleasures, so I already look forward to a second encounter with his latest. At first blush, however, I’m left stimulated but unmoved, as if having watched the life of someone I hardly know flash before my eyes."Brad Brevet (Rope of Silicon), B: "For those that love Malick regardless you are going to find the visual style he has brought to all of his films, more specifically The Thin Red Line and The New World, but this is more a piece of visual poetry compared to the narratives Malick has presented in the past. It's a film with a spiritual energy represented by an orange fractal that divides the film into a mixture of art forms grand in scale and epic in scope.It's hard for me to decide what more can be said about a film that explores the roots of humanity's relationship with God through a cosmic exploration of life. Just as this film took 40 years to make, it may be another 40 years before I'm ever able to come to a final conclusion on what it entirely means to me."
Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter): "Voice-over snippets suggestive of states of mind register more importantly than dialogue, while both are trumped by the diverse musical elements and the rumblings and murmurs of nature, which have all been blended in a masterful sound mix. Emmanuel Lubezki outdoes himself with cinematography of almost unimaginable crispness and luminosity. As in The New World, the camera is constantly on the move, forever reframing in search of the moment, which defines the film’s impressionistic manner."