Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Sea Of Trees (2015) Film Review
The Sea Of Trees
Reviewed by: Richard Mowe
Although the material has, on the surface, plenty of visual and emotional appeal there is a hollow heart to Gus Van Sant’s examination of a lecturer’s quest to end his own life following his wife’s death.
Matthew McConaughey is the lost soul bereft after dealing with his spouse’s demise despite the fact that the marriage appeared to be on the rocks through her alcoholism and an environment of domestic hostility. There looked as if there might be a reconciliation when she is diagnosed with a brain tumour but Van Sant and screenwriter Chris Sparling have a convenient exit strategy for her up their sleeves.
The film cuts back and forth with interior monologues from McConaughey as he looks back on his marriage and what brings him to the brink of suicide in Japan’s famous Aokigahara forest, a lush expanse leading up to Mount Fuji which, apparently, is also known as the Suicide Forest and even carries a sign with a user warning: “Please think again, so that you can make your life a happy one”.
McConaughey’s character arrives ready to commit the deed until he encounters a Japanese man (Ken Watanabe) also staggering through the undergrowth and in need of care. After a series of escapades straight out of a television survival programme, the two of them gradually get to know each other and the reasons for each one being there.
The flashbacks pile up as Van Sant sketches in the details of the breakdown of the marriage to Joan (a feisty Naomi Watts), who castigates her husband for his low paid job in academe while she brings in the bucks from being an estate agent.
The twists and turns of this narrative fail to ring true with too many implausibilities in the plotting to give any credibility.
Certainly it looks impressive but Van Sant relies on just one too many shots of the incredible forest for comfort while his relationship with Japanese culture appears to be no more than cursory.
It has been the first film of the Competition to be greeted with boos at its media screening which should give the film’s creative team pause for reflection about exactly where they went so badly awry.Reviewed on: 16 May 2015