The Tree of Life is a highly ambitious and award winning film that tries to encompass all of life, love, tragedy and loss in the story of a 1950's family mixed with images of the universe that are reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The thing that the movie barely manages to do, however, is entertain, so the film does not rise to the same great level of its vision.
The performances are all excellent. The Brad Pitt father character felt very real to me. The interaction of his three boys tugged at my heart strings and occasionally made me laugh.
The movie is really a spiritual journey. Sean Penn plays one the boys who is now an older man and questioning his place in the universe. The entire film is about him reminiscing over his youth and his lost brother. I am sure that the last 8 minutes won't make much sense to most people, but it is similar to the ending of Lost (****) where all the dead gather together before moving on, or even more similar to the ending of Places in the Heart (***½) where we see images of the living and dead together.
The movie is told in a non-linear fashion that makes it harder to follow, but it is a necessary part of the story to show how past and present are tied together.
I was sure that the movie would be told from a Pantheist perspective, but the film is remarkably non-committal about its view of religion and spirituality. Whatever your faith or lack of faith might be, the film will probably appeal to your viewpoint.