DVD Release Date: May 15, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: November 22, 2006
Rating: PG-13 for some intense sequences of violent action, some sensuality and language
Genre:  Drama
Run Time: 92 min.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Actors:  Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, Mark Margolis, Cliff Curtis, Sean Patrick Thomas, Donna Murphy, Ethan Supplee

What does it mean to have eternity set in our hearts?  Is immortality possible?  These are the questions explored by writer/director Darren Aronofsky in his latest film, an ambitious, artistic, science-fiction production that will leave many shaking their heads, but others pondering these very important issues.

Tomas (Hugh Jackman) is a 26th century astronaut, floating ephemerally above the cosmos in a transparent bubble toward a dying nebula.  The bubble contains a dark and mysterious tree that fascinates Tomas.  But as he attempts to chip at the tree’s bark, he suddenly finds himself in the 21st century, as Dr. Tommy Creo.  Tommy, who has been searching for a cure for cancer, conducts experiments on monkeys from his well-staffed research lab, which is directed by Dr. Lillian Guzetti (Ellen Burstyn).  Tommy works tirelessly, often ordering his colleagues to perform surgeries late into the night.

The reason for Creo’s striving becomes clear when we meet his beautiful wife.   Izzy (Rachel Weisz, Aronofsky’s real-life fiancée) is dying of cancer, and her husband is racing against the clock to save her.  From the beginning, we sense that Tommy’s efforts will be in vain.  Left without her husband for hours at a time, Izzy therefore channels her energy into a book, writing longhand a story about Queen Isabel, the faithful conquistador who loves her and the Spanish Inquisition raging around them.  The writing gives the beautiful Izzy peace about her impending death. 

When Tommy finally sits long enough to read her novel, it transports the film into yet another time period.  This time, Tommy becomes a Spanish conquistador, searching for the Tree of Life, as recounted in the book of Genesis.  Using an ancient Mayan myth that mirrors portions of the biblical story, and accompanied by a Franciscan monk, he believes that if he can find this tree, he will save not just Isabel but everyone in Spain from the brutal terrors of the Inquisitors.  They will live forever.

Back in the present—with occasional jaunts to the cosmos, to check on Tomas—Izzy beckons her husband.  She longs to take a walk in the snow, or gaze at the stars from their snow-covered rooftop.  She wants to talk about the Mayan legend of rebirth, which talks of a “First Father” who sacrificed his life for others.  The myth gives her great hope, because it promises that “life comes from death.”  But Tommy can’t listen; he’s in too much denial.

We sympathize with Izzy’s husband, as he frantically shakes off reality and rushes back to his lab, but we also long to shake Tommy and implore him to seize every precious moment with his wife.  But like the conquistador, Tommy must save his beloved queen—even if it means leaving her alone during her dying moments.  Fortunately, he is on the cusp of a breakthrough.  But will it be in time?

Aronofsky enjoys making films that explore the deeper meaning of life, along with the link between science and faith.  In Pi, his main character hears God through mathematical equations.  In Requiem for a Dream, he explores the soul-numbering pursuit of addiction, in various manifestations.  Here, the director focuses on the concept of eternal life.  He avoids any mention of God or sin, implying that humans are basically good, without any need for redemption.  As a result, his characters must, rather tragically, fend for themselves as they search for answers in the past, present and future.  Fortunately, they do so with excellent performances all around, particularly by Jackman and the luminous Weisz.