Even before you see The Tree of Life, it’s evident that the film has something to do with religion, though it’s not at all clear what. Co-star Brad Pitt has been making remarks to the press that he found his own religious upbringing to be “stifling.” (He and Angelina Jolie are widely thought by the atheist community to be kindred spirits.) It’s the story of a 1950s Texas family that happens to be Catholic, and whose reality and language is very much framed in those terms. The official synopsis leans toward something even more abstract: a “lost soul in the modern world” learns the lesson of “unselfish love.” But, then, is this a religious movie? Well, it’s not exactly confessional. It certainly doesn’t make one long for a revival of 1950s suburban Texas Catholicism, or much of anything else. There are religious themes, yes, but it’s not preachy by any stretch. Suggestive. Or, to use Erik Lokkesmoe’s could-mean-anything word, “spiritual.” As the lights dimmed in the screening room, a passage from the Book of Job appeared on the screen, the start of God’s monologue from the whirlwind. A woman’s voice tells us about the choice we have in life between nature and grace, and this opposition maps itself onto all that follows.
more from Nathan Schneider at Killing The Buddha here.