For Malick, family is a foil to the “song to song” aimlessness and misguided rebellion we so often pursue. Family (including the church family) is something we take for granted, a source of stability and unconditional love that we tragically fail to appreciate. Why do we so often forsake the good people in our lives in favor of the bad? Why do we choose forbidden fruit over the fruit that we know gives life?
If there is an overarching theme to Malick’s work—and certainly one that is central to Song—it’s that what we really need is right in front of us, if only we have eyes to see. But like Adam and Eve, we want more. We are ungrateful, unsatisfied, unable to recognize the good of what we’ve been given. The flashy pleasures and forbidden horizons lure our gaze away, but they always disappoint. “It’s a big candy store out there,” says Portman’s character in Song. But the candy only leads to rot.
God’s grace is closer than the candy, closer than the castles and frontiers that tempt us. But we have to be able to see it. We have to be able to recognize and name it.