This is the story of Jack O'Brien, a troubled man who grew up under the thumb of his oppressive father. It starts at the beginning, not just of Jack's life, but of life in the universe in general. We witness as the stars are formed, as Earth comes into existence, as life crawls out of the ocean onto the Earth. We watch the first ever act of mercy that a creature shows another, as one dinosaur spares the life of another. We see the asteroid which kills the dinosaurs, and apes becoming cavemen becoming civilized man. Finally, we arrive in the 1960s, where the O'Briens give birth to Jack, a healthy baby boy. Jack grows up adoring his mother, who is kind and affectionate. However, his father, bitter with himself for choosing to become an engineer instead of a musician, is a strict man who rules the home with an iron fist. He watches as his two little brothers are born and grow up, and he struggles with the burden of being the eldest son, the focus of the majority of his father's wrath. We see the events that shape Jack as a young man and the ways in which he becomes troubled. A couple of his friends die tragically young, challenging early on his sense of justice in the universe. He also notes everything his father does wrong, from his abuse of his mother to his preferential treatment given to the middle brother, due to their shared love of music. During a summer in which his father is out of town on business, Jack begins to act violently, shooting his brother with a BB gun and breaking into neighboring homes. When his father returns home and asks for Jack's forgiveness for his unfair treatment, it's up to Jack to decide whether he can move on and forgive his father during the course of the rest of his life, or whether he will carry his grudge against his dad to his grave.
Best part of story, including ending:
It's a sprawling epic about the nature of life and forgiveness, which spans from the dawn of the Universe to the end of the Earth. Even though it stretches across so much, it still feels intimate.
Best scene in story:
The director, Terence Malick, creates lovely images throughout, many of which stuck with me. One in particular was carefree children in the 1960s gleefully playing behind a truck as it sprayed pesticide all over them.
Opinion about the main character:
Jack is a troubled kid, but we understand where he's coming from. He was dealt a tough hand by life, and while we don't always like him, we understand.