Director Terrence Malick’s film flits between the present and the 1950s as Sean Penn’s middle-aged character recalls his Texan childhood, a time of wild adventures and tough battles with his stern dad (Brad Pitt) and good times with his gentle mum (Jessica Chastain). The film looks fabulous, full of lyrical and luminous images, but the narrative is far from straightforward, flitting back and forth in the way of fragmentary memories and overlaid with a poetic voice-over. Early on, we learn of a family tragedy and the film veers off into a bizarre exploration of the meaning of life, a stunning montage embracing everything from volcanoes to dinosaurs. Profound or pretentious? Take your pick. Whether or not you go along with Malick’s philosophical musings about the ‘way of nature’ and the ‘way of grace’ (the alternative life paths offered by father and mother), his brilliantly acted and photographed film evokes the emotional turmoil of childhood, its resentments, pains and joys, in a way that few other film-makers can match.