The story of Jack O’Brien (Sean Penn), and consequently his parents Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien (Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain) is recalled within the much broader context of the history of the universe.
We begin with flashes of memories and moments of grief. Thoughts on faith and nature. A mother stricken with grief. A father filled with regret. Their now grown son sifting through memories, trying to make sense.
When all else fails, he starts at the beginning…the very beginning. In a matter of minutes we see our world and the cosmos themselves take shape, the beginning of life, the age of the dinosaurs, and so on, in a stunning barrage of natural images accompanied by a score of weeping symphonic melodies (as is much of the rest of the film).
Eventually we arrive at the beginning of his time (circa 1950). The memories are shadowy at first, but rapidly increase in clarity, much like the film itself. These moments from childhood are perfectly captured and presented as just that–memories.
The skill with which the nature of memory is presented is something that takes a minute absorb. To be honest, my first reaction was not overwhelmingly positive. I thought if was slow-moving and overly metaphoric. By the end of the film I’d changed my mind…some
If you’re looking for a linear story-you will not like this movie. It’s fragmented and jumps from reality to metaphor without warning, but I have to give credit where credit is due and this is a visually beautiful film.
Up close it is a bit overwhelming, but take a step back and it’s hard not to appreciate how stunning it is. It’s epic context, its small focus, and it’s beautiful images make for a movie that I will probably never watch again, but will always remember.
Check out more of 2WC’s film reviews: The Crusade on Cinema