I am really torn between deciding whether this film is complete wanky wanky arse or whether it is surreal absurdest and impressionistic genius. I felt the same way about a French physical-dance-theatre performance I saw at the Arts Fest in Auckland last year. I hate to believe I am unable to appreciate fine art but this film certainly tested me. I was absolutely captivated for the first ten minutes; the avant garde camera angles, the whispering lines of dialogue like voices under water that didn't match the movements of the actors' lips, the foreboding sense of tragedy and the slow reveal that someone had died and shattered the nuclear family of the 1950s all drew me in successfully. But then the nature sequences started, and, well, they just went on. And on. Stars and galaxies, volcanoes exploding, micororganisms and cells dividing, big bangs going on - yeah yeah, I get it, enough already. Then the dinosaurs arrived and I lost concentration. I would have turned it off at this point but luckily I persevered; we got back to Brad and Sean and the troubled youth of the 1950s and a father who may have been too harsh on his kids, or a son who may have been too sensitive. Although it never snapped to 'real time' as I was hoping it would, I learnt to let go of that hope as the narrative, however underwater and murky, seemed to move along enough to compliment the beauty of the cinematography and satisfy my needs as an audience member. The exploration of an impressionist representation of memories was a lovely idea and for the most part worked well; like the French physical theatre, I appreciate that sometimes you can be exposed to uncomfortable style in order to allow the images and ideas to sit and resonate long after the film is over. This is not a conventional film. Brad Pitt voyeurs beware; he has chosen to do something very different here. The ending doesn't satisfy at all, as realities get confused and the need for resolution of the child's death (how? when? where? etc) are never met, but then (sigh), life never does satisfy, does it?
Should we expect a three act structure with a climax and a resolve in order to feel fulfilled? Or simply accept that this falls out of the box and is therefore 'art' because it challenges the accepted way of delivering a narrative? Can't decide so have rated this an ambivalent 3 out of 5.