Has Darren Aronofsky found The Fountain of youth?

Some have said “The Fountain” works best if looked at as an “experience” rather than a movie. Others claim the movie doesn’t work no matter how you slice it. If nothing else, one thing is for certain: “The Fountain” has moviegoers divided.

The reason seems to be because it asks big questions and ultimately takes itself very seriously. This can be disastrous for a film, especially if it happens to be about undying love (are you snickering yet)?

The story itself takes place in three different time periods. In the present, a determined drug developer, Tommy Creo (Hugh Jackman) struggles to find a cure for his wife’s brain tumor. The dying wife, Izzy (Rachel Weisz), happens to be writing a book about a Spanish Conquistador (Jackman again) in the 1500s who is searching for the Fountain of Youth in the hopes of saving the life of Queen Isabel (Weisz again). Then there’s the 26th century angle in which a bald Jackman flies around the universe in a bubble with a dying tree beside him.

This might all sound like poppycock, but in the hands of writer/director Darren Aronofksy (“Pi”, “Requiem for a Dream”), it comes off as heartfelt. With help from his wonderful cinematographer (Matthew Libatique) and composer (Clint Mansell), Aronofsky has managed to craft an intricate and often dazzling puzzle of quiet moments of sadness and longing.

Jackman and Weisz pour their hearts into the film as well, but make no mistake, this is Aronofsky’s baby. His earnest dedication to the project – six years in the making – isn’t just a sign of stubbornness, but of his own undying love as well.

And while “The Fountain” is not without its limitations (the pacing is sometimes erratic, and the acting a little stilted at times), Aronosfky and team get brownie points for venturing into the unknown; and by doing so, giving us a film that is unique, challenging and arresting. Which are some of the best qualities a film can have.

Danny Gordon can be contacted at d.gordon@umiami.edu.