The Tree of Life is a 2011 American drama film written and directed by Terrence Malick, and starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain. The film premiered in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and won the Palme d'Or.
An official synopsis was released at the 2010 American Film Market: We trace the evolution of an eleven-year-old boy in the Midwest, Jack, one of three brothers. At first all seems marvelous to the child. He sees as his mother does with the eyes of his soul. She represents the way of love and mercy, where the father tries to teach his son the world's way of putting oneself first. Each parent contends for his allegiance, and Jack must reconcile their claims. The picture darkens as he has his first glimpses of sickness, suffering and death. The world, once a thing of glory, becomes a labyrinth. Framing this story is that of adult Jack, a lost soul in a modern world, seeking to discover amid the changing scenes of time that which does not change: the eternal scheme of which we are a part. When he sees all that has gone into our world's preparation, each thing appears a miracleprecious, incomparable. Jack, with his new understanding, is able to forgive his father and take his first steps on the path of life. The story ends in hope, acknowledging the beauty and joy in all things, in the everyday and above all in the familyour first schoolthe only place that most of us learn the truth about the world and ourselves, or discover life's single most important lesson, of unselfish love.  Cast Brad Pitt as Mr. O'Brien Sean Penn as Jack Jessica Chastain as Mrs. O'Brien Hunter McCracken as Young Jack Laramie Eppler as R.L. Tye Sheridan as Steve Kari Matchett as Jack's Ex Joanna Going as Jack's Wife Kimberly Whalen as Mrs. Brown Jackson Hurst as Uncle Roy Fiona Shaw as Grandmother Crystal Mantecon as Elisa Tamara Jolaine as Mrs. Stone Dustin Allen as George Walsh  Production  Development Terrence Malick pitched the concept of The Tree of Life to River Road Entertainment head Bill Pohlad while the two were collaborating on an early version of Che. Pohlad recalls initially thinking the idea was "crazy", but as the film concept evolved, he came to feel strongly about the idea. The Tree of Life was announced in late 2005, with Indian production company Percept Picture Company set to finance it and Donald Rosenfeld onboard as producer. The film was set to be shot partially in India, with pre-production scheduled to begin in January 2006. Colin Farrell and Mel Gibson were at one stage attached to the project. These plans did not come to fruition. In October 2007, Bill Pohlad announced plans to produce the project through River Road. Sean Penn and Heath Ledger were involved in talks to star. In December 2007, Brad Pitt was reported to be in talks to replace Ledger, while Penn remained attached in a supporting role for the film. Jack Fisk is reported to have done research for the film at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In an October 2008 interview, production designer Jack Fisk, a longtime Malick collaborator, suggested that the director is attempting something radical. He also implied that details of the film are a close secret. In early March 2009, visual effects artist Mike Fink revealed to Empire Magazine that he was working on scenes of prehistoric Earth for the film. The similarity of the scenes Fink describes to descriptions of a hugely ambitious project entitled Q that Malick worked on soon after Days of Heaven has led to speculation that The Tree of Life is a resurrection of that abandoned project. The website aintitcool.com has since reported that the prehistoric scenes are being filmed for a separate, IMAX-specific project "depicting the birth and death of the universe." That film is being described as "not narratively connected" to The Tree of Life; rather they are "thematically complementary pieces." In a March 2011 interview, the visual effects supervisor, Dan Glass, stated that the film would feature microbial and astronomical imagery, along with dinosaurs. He summarized the film as "a very powerful movie about memories, emotions, and our place in the world."  Filming Filming began in Texas. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki returned to work with Malick after collaborating with him on The New World. Locations included Smithville, Houston, Matagorda, Bastrop, Austin, and Malick's hometown of Waco. The namesake of the film is a large live oak tree that was excavated from property a few miles outside Smithville. The 65,000 pound tree and root ball was trucked into Smithville and replanted.  Post-production After nearly thirty years away from Hollywood, famed special effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull contributed to special effects work on The Tree of Life. Malick, a friend of Trumbull, approached him about the effects work and mentioned that he did not like the look of computer-generated imagery. Trumbull asked Malick, "Why not do it the old way? The way we did it in 2001?"