I first heard about the Tree of Life when it won the Palme d'Or in the same Cannes Festival where Nuri Bilge Ceylan won the grand jury award with his film Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. From what I gathered, Terrence Malick and his movie sounded mysterious and different. I read the two very positive reviews written by Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian, and this concept stuck in my mind: "And all the time, gigantic scenes from the secret life of the cosmos endow these family dramas with something alienated, bewildering – a sense of a terrifying new perspective in which their traumas are vanishingly tiny and yet have an excruciating new spiritual magnitude."
I went to see the movie on a rainy day in London, and trusting Bradshaw, I was completely prepared to get carried away and be impressed by it. And so I was. I think what the movie does is remind the viewers of the grandness and incredibility of the cosmos and the nature, and one doesn't need to see the "light" and dinosaurs and flowing lava to remember it, just looking at a big tree against rays of sunshine would suffice, but we seem to have forgotten it regardless. And we are part of that nature, and with all our numbers and experience and pride, it is nature that guides us, not the other way around. We are small and unimportant, and we all experience similar things. Similar scenes are repeated millions of times across the world.
And yet, are we? The story of the family and everyone's joy, pain, aspirations and disappointments gain such great proportions in the movie that you can compare the joy to the sunshine and the pain to the lava. So Malick appreciates not only the nature (and its creator) but also what each one of us has to go through every day and how we cope with it. I empathized with the father's struggles through the world's drudgery as much as I admired the mother's untainted goodness, heavenly "way of grace."
Bradshaw says that the movie created a "Christianityless metaphysics" for him. And so it did inspire a religionless metaphysics for me. Having not pondered about these questions (everything is random, one shall not seek for meaning, just for a refuge) for a while, and having had weak faith (if any at all) during this time, the movie did give rise to this question in my mind: Why not? We don't have any evidence either way, so having no faith is a form of faith in itself.
Maybe the real issue is the loss of faith in humanity.