Terrence Malick’s mid-career output has been as divisive as his early films were revered. After The Tree of Life won the Palme d’Or in 2011, To the Wonder (2012), Knight of Cups (2015), and Song to Song (2017) arrived in uncharacteristically quick succession, testing audiences’ willingness to indulge Malick’s stubborn stylistic sensibilities. His knack for laying bare characters’ inner lives simply didn’t have the same impact when applied to a smattering of good-looking celebrities milling about South by Southwest festival, or Ben Affleck’s middle-aged ennui. Malick is the inverse of many filmmakers: he does his best work when he’s swinging for the fences, attempting to grapple with nothing less than the meaning of life. His new film, A Hidden Life, not only marks a return to more fertile thematic ground, but is the perfect marriage of maker and material. Malick uses every trick in his extensive playbook in service of a sweeping and universal story that also speaks deeply to one man’s spirituality.