The Tree of Life

Movie review by Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Tree of Life Poster Image

Common Sense says

age 14+

Unique, difficult, poetic masterpiece about life and death.

PG-13 2011 138 minutes

Parents say

age 16+

Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 12+

Based on 8 reviews

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Community Reviews

age 15+

A visual feast with a philsophical message

The director of this movie (and his dir of photography) took pains to set up many visually stunning (or at least intriguing) scenes. Some scenes have been described as being Kubrickian. Furthermore, he dips into classical music quite a bit, which gives it more depth. There are two themes (at least): One referring to the quote from Job that asks: "what is my life compared to the wonders of the universe?" as it applies to a mother's anguish regarding the loss of her son (not shown on camera). The other is an illustration (through the parents' actions) of a life lived by "nature" (i.e., dog-eat-dog) and one lived with grace (empathy). The father is tough on his sons (following "nature'), but this rings true to my own experience of WWII-era dads and their stunted ability to live emotionally. One captivating aspect is that many of the "growing up" scenes are written and shot from the perspective of the kids, not often seen in movies. Perhaps the dad (who teaches his boys that it is a tough world met only by rule-following and looking after oneself) might be tough for younger children that simply are too naive to know a lot about the "real world", but for high-schoolers and inquisitive kids, I'd say it is fine. Kids by that age have seen plenty and the opportunity for parents to discuss it with the "controlled environment" of a movie is good. Some aspects are hard to grasp right off; for example, the whispered lines early on are hard to discern and the symbolic "afterlife" is just that. It is not a particularly religious film, but a thoughtful and philosophical one; one needed for our modern times. To see illustrated the results of two different life philosophies (nature vs grace) seems to me an important movie. No consumerism, relatively low violence, little swearing or addictive habits.

This title has:

Great messages
age 15+

Beautiful and moving, but sad and difficult to get through

Incredibly well-filmed, beautiful cinematography, and quite moving. But also very sad. Even with the positive resolution at the end, I found this difficult to watch - the family dynamics, and the foreknowledge of the tragedy during the flashbacks made this emotionally difficult for me to watch. I'm glad I finished watching the film, but it's a very different experience. In order to enjoy and get something from this film, young adults will need to be able to grasp both abstract concepts, as well as to be able to handle a child's death.

Movie Details

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