Introduced by an on-screen quotation from Abraham Lincoln and an Indiana 1817 notation, "The Better Angels" follows its central character with a flowing camera, intermittent voiceover narration, and a series of instructive lessons. But this dreamlike film never explicitly identifies its illustrious central character--Lincoln as a boy shaped by his loving, indulgent stepmother and his taciturn, strict father.
The inimitable writer/director Terrence Malick has crafted another tone poem, this one a meditation on various aspects and stages of love. He focuses on a central couple: the American Neil and Frenchwoman Marina. Secondarily, a Spanish speaking Father Quintana interrogates his failing faith and Neil renews a prior friendship with Jane.
As 2011 ends, the best films deserve applause. Here are the films essay writer for which I welcome repeat viewings.