But holiness is the theme here, as frequent invocations to God and family – all breathed in a pseudo-profound whisper – make clear, and out of nowhere the eldest boy, now grown up into a successful architect, recites an invocation to his boyhood, which leads to Malick employing a cosmic display of the earth’s origins as an introduction to that kid’s childhood and following it up with a glimpse of his adult self being transported from a glass skyscraper in Dallas to what feels like a mental defective’s view of some mythic spiritual plane where he’s reunited with his family. It’s a regressive vision to say the least: in Malick’s world, a man can only be fulfilled by convening cosmically with his not particularly happy past, but our director is ever the nostalgist, so long as that nostalgia isn’t troubled by the pesky demands of particularizing details. In his takedown of the film, Robert Koehler smartly remarked that Malick “has fatally forgotten the wisdom that in the specific lies the universal.” Instead the filmmaker takes a top-down approach to spirituality that results in a generic set of circumstances being worked into an underimagined framework. We know nothing about this family or their Waco surroundings – except that they travel to the black part of town to buy brisket – and we don’t really need to know more. Bringing up questionable dichotomies between grace and nature via voice-over helps little. These people are simply clichéd props to deliver Malick’s increasingly out-of-touch vision of dubious spiritualism.