Directed by Terrence Malick
Released March 17, 2017
Terrence Malick is the definition of an eclectic filmmaker. He made his first movie in 1973 and now releases only his eighth narrative feature nearly forty-five years later. He hit Oscar success twice – with “The Thin Red Line” and “The Tree of Life” – but those films are also known for their very distinctive styles that can be easily attributed to him. He even stipulates when making a movie that his image or likeness cannot be used, making him a true enigma, telling stories in a way that is equally fascinating and frustrating, and his latest release very much fits that description.
It’s not easy to summarize this film because it, like all his others, is so much less about plot than about aesthetics. The most accurate picture of the film is a purposefully disjointed exploration of romance and affection as it pertains to a number of intersecting individuals. Their names include Faye, Cook, and Amanda, but as a way of explaining the film, this reviewer couldn’t have identified a single one of their names immediately after watching it because the conversation is so pointed and directed at emotion rather than who the characters are – and as a result they could well be anyone.
The talent amassed in this film is impressive, and it’s worth noting that this film was made five years ago, before some of its players had earned their most recent Oscar nominations. It’s fair to say that all were on an excellent career track then and remain so now, with Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, and Michael Fassbender enjoying higher profiles since 2012 and Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett remaining at the same already elevated level. These performances can’t really be compared to most of their other work, but it would be accurate to say that all adapt well to this unique universe Malick creates in his movies and assume the parts more than adequately.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this film’s original cut was over eight hours long, and it feels like that even though the film actually clocks in at two hours and nine minutes. Artsy cinematography and extended sequences that show close-up points of view and portray characters framed in a sexually alluring angle or light can be found incessantly throughout the film and, as usual, that overpowers any semblance of linear storytelling. There is beauty and poignancy to be found here, but it’s wrapped up in such dense and unhurried filmmaking that it’s hard to be completely entranced and moved.