Utilizing an excess of symbolism isn’t always the greatest tool. While an incredible story, the film ends up being longer than it needs to be.
Brad Pitt, in yet another role that highlights his acting skills, plays a father whose harsh methods in discipline test the innocence of his eldest son, Steve. Until we see his father behave this way, Steve has always viewed the environment in the eyes of his mother, a young woman who has a graceful, caring outlook on life. However, her views are constantly being severely challenged by his father, which leaves Steve testing the gray areas between what’s right and what’s wrong.
Terrence Malick ensures that we see a little piece of the big picture in each frame. With narration to go along with these small fragments, each character admits their inner most thoughts and feelings, which only adds more power and purpose behind the underlying message in this film.
While the story is relatable in the way that it tackles the struggle we all have with growing up and understanding our parents’ morals, there is still the unnecessary amount of symbolism used in this film.
We are immediately brought into the news of a tragic loss to the family and the mother’s inner conflict with understanding God and her faith in Him. Malick, then, devotes twenty minutes to the film to images depicting the birth of the universe as a response to the mother’s question about their purpose on Earth.
Additionally, throughout the film we are reminded of Jack, the middle brother who witnessed Steve’s downfall, as an adult. At the end of the film, we are led to believe that he has reconciled his differences with both of his parents in yet another symbolic sequence. Even though we are provided the results of their parents’ upbringing, the story is ultimately about the eldest son’s transformation leaving the glimpse at Jack as an adult superfluous.
Overall, it’s a beautifully made film with its outlook on one’s inner conflict with family, principles, faith, and adolescence.
Jim's Rating - 8/10