Monday, January 16, 2017

Film Review: The Sea of Trees (2015)

The Sea of Trees (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...an emotional, poignant, and beautiful film."

A suicidal American attempts to help a lost Japanese man in Aokigahara, a forest known for attracting suicide...

The Sea of Trees is a simple but effective drama. On one hand, the plot's simplicity allows the characters to grow. On the other hand, the simplicity also means the film is predictable and safe – it really doesn't take many chances. The film follows Arthur (Matthew McConaughey), an American who travels to Aokigahara to commit suicide. While in the process of killing himself, he bumps into Takumi Nakamura (Ken Watanabe), a suicidal man whose wrists are already slit. Arthur is able to help Takumi, but the pair soon find they are lost. While the couple try to escape the forest, the film goes back and shows Arthur's complicated relationship with his wife, Joan (Naomi Watts). It frequently hops back-and-forth between past and present, but it's never confusing. It moves to a predictable but moving ending. I liked it.


The Sea of Trees might be best know for being booed and ridiculed by 'critics' at Cannes. I don't quite understand the hatred for this film. In fact, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It is a focused drama about love, life, and death. Unlike films like The Forest, which blatantly capitalizes on its setting, The Sea of Trees treats suicide with respect. It uses suicide as a pillar for the film's other themes. The focus on character is also appreciated. It gives an uncompromising look into love – and all of its raw complications. It also offers an interesting look into different cultures. The film is a bit bloated, though. The uneventful moments are singled out due to the slow place. A slow moving movie is fine, but it becomes tiresome when nothing is actually going on. Fortunately, most of the film is focused.

Matthew McConaughey is a great leading man. He has the right amount of emotion for each scene. I've been a big fan since Killer Joe and I'm excited to see what's next. Ken Watanabe is also great, although he can be a little overdone at times. Naomi Watts has less screen time, but she performs well. The cinematography is beautiful. The music is fantastic, blending perfectly with the film's atmosphere. The movie was written by Chris Sparling and directed by Gus Van Sant. As I said, I really appreciate the focus on character. However, in terms of writing and direction, it does follow a very familiar formula. A little bit of personality would have gone a long way.

Overall, The Sea Of Trees is a great film. It's an emotional, poignant, and beautiful film. The story doesn't break any new ground, but it really didn't have to. Its focus on character and themes sends a significant message to the audience. The pacing is often slow and inconsistent, and it does have some uneventful moments, but it is worth watching.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some blood and disturbing images.

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