The love story itself is segmented, with the male character, Neil (Ben Affleck) as a strong, silent figure who imparts feelings of love, warmth, and care—like the sunshine. But like the sunshine, he can go behind the clouds, darken, and bring on a sudden storm. We see him at first with Marina (Olga Kurylenko), a French woman with a 10 year-old girl. We see them in the first bursts of love, dancing and playing incessantly. But like the changing weather (the sun does not commit to an appearance every day), Neil cannot commit to marriage, so Marina and her daughter return to Paris.
Love blooms again for Neil when he becomes involved with Jane (Rachel McAdams), and again the sunny days of love follow. But then, he decides to end this love in order to take back Marina, who is floundering on her own in Paris. So like the seasons, love comes and goes and comes back again in different forms. Inevitably, when the storms come, the relationship must be strong like a house to withstand the turmoil. Love is ephemeral; we all need it and chase after it, but it’s hard to hold onto. It requires commitment that we are sometimes unwilling to make. As noted in the film, when love turns to hate, it becomes a cruel war.
Interspersed into these musings, is a priest (Javier Bardem), who is seeking God’s love as earnestly as the three main characters are seeking it in each other. Similar questions and feelings are expressed to God as Marina, the narrator of the film, expresses to Neil. Where are you? Why don’t you speak to me? Where do you go for so long? It’s so hard to hold onto you.
Malick’s ending to these musing is to ask God to show us how to seek Him (Love). And he thanks him as the “love that loves us.” The last scene looks to me like a castle in the distance that beckons us on.