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.
From 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 miracle—precious, 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 family—our first school—the 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.
The vivid images of this film portray life in symbolic ways, such as clouds and storms accompanied by sorrowful music to portray the difficult times and then flowers blooming under sunny skies and an uplifting chorus to portray times of restoration. The nature and universe scenes are nicely filmed and showcased here. There are characters too, including a family man played by Brad Pitt and his wife and three sons, seemingly living a suburban life in the fifties. Pitt plays the father as a paradox, at times he is kind to his sons and plays with them, spraying them with a hose, hugs them and yet at other times he is volatile and verbally abusive, riding them about such things as slamming the door or not doing an outdoor job properly. In one particular scene he goes over the top a bit after his son sasses him and he grabs him and slings him into another room.
The film powerfully portrays death as one of the sons die in the story. We see the grief of the mother and father and remaining brothers. A pastor gives a brief message on Job and his trials and suffering. The film points toward the conclusion that people must love one another and that this is the great hope. Although it is not clearly stated in the movie that Christ is the answer scriptures are quoted and love is one of its main focuses. It features an infant baptism scene too. It also nicely features the topic of grace and it’s stated that grace doesn’t please itself and accepts injuries, insults and being slighted.
The film could have used some editing in my opinion and is a bit long with its runtime of approximately 138 minutes. And it is a bit esoteric. But for the most part it is a film which will claim the audience’s attention such as when a few brothers stare at a man who walks funny due to being nearly crippled. The film not only features actor Brad Pitt but Sean Penn as well. It is a film which powerfully examines the theme of “Why, God? Where were you?” We are pleased to award the movie our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal for ages twelve plus.