Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life: a review

My friend Reno Lauro spent 18 months working with Terrence Malick on The Tree of Life. Now he’s also written an exquisite review of the film:

‘In an age when the most common uses of movies include sightseeing, adventure, and entertainment, the American filmmaker Terrence Malick offers us an invitation to probe time, space, and the mysteries of human existence. Defying cinematic formulas of convention and consumption, Malick has managed to build a grand cathedral to the ineffable mysteries of the human quest for divine answers. With all the ambition of the great master builders of old, Malick creates a living edifice designed with a geometry of life and love. Hewed from blocks of living duration, mortared with light and adorned with Fibonacci’s energy, The Tree of Life is much more than simply a ‘movie,’ it is that rare event in the life of an art form that extends the possibilities of its own craft. Malick has reintroduced the dynamic possibilities of a cinema of time to American moviegoers’.

You can read the remainder of the review here.


  1. Watched ToL last night here in OKC. An astonishing film in many respects, although not without some problems. I haven’t heard any reviewers talk about this, but it seems to me the film is deeply indebted to Augustine’s Confessions. Malick, if memory serves, did doctoral work on Heidegger, whose engagement with Confessions is well known. Be that as it may, I found ToL strongly Augustinanian, both structurally (framed as a prayer to God) and thematically (e.g. the glorious mystery of being, sin, memory, etc). Clearly, the relation of ‘grace’ and ‘nature’ is the energy for the film, which I think sometimes slides beyond the symbolic into the outright allegorical.

    On a related front, I found Michael Horton’s review of the film deeply problematic and troubling. Horton’s reading betrayed a complete lack of critical ability, in my opinion; he misjudged the movie as wildly as he did Catholic teaching on grace and nature. A shameful display, in my judgment. Judge for yourselves:



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