Writer-director Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is many things to many people: a ponderous exercise in non-linear storytelling, a triumph of elliptical moviemaking that just happens to star Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, a plotless and overlong art film, a singular work by an idiosyncratic genius.
Without question, though, Tree of Life is already being recognized as one of the most important movies of the year. It has polarized critics and preview audiences as one of 2011's few unmitigated love-it-or-hate-it breakouts. A kaleidoscopic drama of epic proportions that tackles equally epic ideas—spiritual reckoning, galactic interconnectivity, and how the dead manage to still transform lives from the great beyond—the movie arrived in theaters Friday after collecting the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
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