After witnessing what creation may have looked like, including the parting of land and sea, the springing forth of flowers and foliage and the era when dinosaurs freely roamed the earth, the story then fast forwards to the 1950s, where we’re re-introduced to the O’Briens and their three sons in much happier circumstances.

A middle class family living in the suburbs of Waco, Texas, we're treated to what’s essentially a lengthy professional home movie that documents everything from how Mom and Dad often see the world differently (the movie describes it as the path of grace vs. the path of nature) to how quickly children can lose their innocence to the everyday joys and struggles that inevitably come with day-to-day living.

Proving he’s an equal opportunity time-jumper, Malick eventually leads us to the future, where we catch up with one of the O’Brien sons, Jack, who’s now a grumpy old man played by Sean Penn (Fair Game). Clearly dissatisfied with what his life has become, we see Jack daydreaming and wondering where it all went wrong from his glassy corporate office in downtown Houston. Note: Jack rarely does anything but pace back and forth and look perpetually annoyed, certainly one of Penn’s less complicated roles.

Now if you find yourself wondering how all these pieces possibly fit together, trust me, you’re not alone. While I’m all for movies that actually give the viewer a little credit for figuring things out on his/her own, there’s definitely something to be said for maintaining a little structure in the process. That criticism aside, one still can’t help admiring Malick’s inventive spirit and passion for the subject matter that’s been in the works for years now.

But at the end of the day, is Malick’s abstract approach actually art? Or even a worthwhile experience? Well, like evaluating Van Gogh’s “Field with Poppies” or Monet’s “Lady with a Parasol”, the beauty (or lack thereof) is entirely in the eyes of the beholder.


  • Drugs/Alcohol: Some social drinking, plus a few shots of the town drunks.
  • Language/Profanity: A single use of “da--” and “he--.”
  • Sex/Nudity: Childbirth is shown, although not graphically so. A young boy looks through his mother’s lingerie drawer.
  • Violence: One brother injures another with a BB gun. Given his own dissatisfaction with his life, Mr. O’Brien often lashes out at his son and sometimes out of anger, he handles him (and his own wife) rather roughly. We also see the accidental death of a child, due to drowning. There’s also discussion of the death of the O’Brien’s teenage son.

Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.