By Christian DiMartino
In Japan lies the Aokigahara Forest, which translates to “sea of trees.” This forest has a reputation though: it is known as the suicide forest, in which people travel there to peacefully commit suicide. And honestly, you’ll want to take a trip there after seeing Gus Van Sant’s unfortunately terrible new film, The Sea of Trees.
The suicide forest seems rife with material, hence why, surprisingly, they have made two movies out of it. The other being The Forest, a lousy, braindead horror film from earlier this year. In all actuality, this one is almost as bad, but in different ways. The Sea of Trees is a curiously bad film. One that sounds golden on paper, but fails to translate onscreen in damn near every way.
Matthew McConaughey, who I thought was doing good movies again, plays a guy with a name not worth remembering. Seriously, none of this stuff sticks. But anyways, he is an American (could you imagine him trying to do any other accent?) marked by tragedy. What happened to him is ultimately revealed in flashbacks (his wife is played by Naomi Watts, the best part of the movie).
He travels to the forest for uh… obvious reasons. And within minutes, he sees an injured man (Ken Watanabe) stumbling through the forest in search of a way out. So the two of them search for a way out, whispering some bulls**t to each other (they clearly haven’t heard of an “inside voice”) until blah blah blah you’re not going to see this movie anyways.
Van Sant is a gifted filmmaker. Obviously, I mean, have you seen Milk and Good Will Hunting? This film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival back in 2015 and was booed upon arrival. I’m with them there.
The Sea of Trees is an aimless, meandering, and at times ridiculous affair. Ridiculous in that in can feel like a Nicholas Sparks movie. C’mon Gus. You’re better than that. Actually, everyone here is better than that, and only one of them rises above the material.
McConaughey, who in the last five years has shown us what he’s really capable of, kind of phones it in here. Maybe because he was too busy putting his heart into movies like Interstellar or something. Watanabe’s performance is hard to pinpoint, because you can’t hear a damn thing he’s saying. Watts is the only one who is strong here. The story with her kind of works, even though it offers literally nothing new; the one with Watanabe however is just awful. They do have a moment though, whenever they’re lamenting around a campfire. It makes you with the rest of the movie could have worked.
I was bored out of my mind. Time seems to move slowly. Watching McConaughey fall and scream is hilarious. It really just feels underdeveloped. Or overdeveloped. Maybe someday someone will actually bring life to this suicide forest.