Tree of Life, The

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Not recommended under 12, PG to 14 (Violence and disturbing themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Tree of Life, The
  • a review of Tree of Life, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 7 July 2011.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 12 Not recommended due to violence and disturbing themes
Children 12-14 Not recommended due to disturbing themes
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Tree of Life, The
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length: 138 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The Tree of Life explores the premise that life can be shaped in two ways, by grace or by nature.  The movie explores these two themes through imagery of life across many cosmic domains including the life of a family.

Jack (Hunter McCracken) is the eldest son in a family of three who struggles in his relationship with his father (Brad Pitt).  The movie follows Jack into adulthood (played by Sean Penn) as he undertakes an exploration of his damaging past, his present life and the future.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death of a child; cruelty to animals; child abuse

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • The father teaches his two boys to box.  Throughout the lesson he is seen encouraging the boys to punch him by verbally taunting them and slapping them on the head.
  • A violent outburst by the father towards his middle son.  The family are seen eating dinner with the father in a very tense and aggressive mood. He snaps when his son makes a comment and is seen to reach across the table and smack him hard across the head.  The boy cowers and runs from the room. The father puts his eldest son in another room as the smallest son cries into his mother’s arms.
  • After the abuse at the dinner table, the father pursues the mother who is seen to be visibly upset.  She expresses her anger at his treatment towards the son, and the father grabs her and holds her wrists forcibly until she settles down. 
  • Jack has a shotgun and is seen shooting at birds in the bushes, he then turns and asks his younger brother to trust him and put his finger over the gun.  When the brother does this he fires the gun.  The boy screams and cries out in pain.
  • Jack is looking into his neighbours’ home and sees the father yelling at his wife aggressively.  The children cower at the back of the room as they see their parents fight.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • A scene of a shark eating a large fish with blood seen in the water.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • A man is seen on the ground having a fit

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • This movie contains a high level of tension, with a particular focus on the father’s relationship with his boys.  He is seen to be extremely controlling and punitive towards the boys and at times he is physically violent (see above).
  • Jack struggles with his father’s treatment of him. During one incident where his father is angry at him, the eldest son tells his father “You’d like to kill me”.
  • A scene where the father is fixing his car. He is lying under his car which is on blocks and Jack contemplates knocking over the blocks, causing his father to be squashed. The boy is heard having an internal dialogue where he contemplates hurting his father and you hear him wishing that he would be killed, saying “please God kill him”, “Let him die”.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

There are no additional scenes however this movie has the potential to disturb this age group because of the emotional intensity created throughout the movie through visual images and music and by the above-mentioned scenes.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Jack breaks into a neighbour’s home to steal lingerie. He is seen fondling and sniffing the lingerie.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • The mother and father are seen caressing and kissing

Use of substances

None of concern

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • hell
  • God
  • balls

In a nutshell

The Tree of Life is a poetic and complex exploration of life, with less of an emphasis placed on a comprehensive story and more on evoking the viewer’s own emotional responses.  The film’s emotional intensity and family violence is likely to make it too disturbing for children under 12 and some younger teens

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • family loyalty
  • the beauty of life

Parents may also wish to discuss the negative and positive connections that exist within families and the consequences of these.