Oct 202016

The Sea of Trees is a movie more about regret than loss or grief and while the screenplay could’ve used some work, the film itself is worthwhile if only to watch an excellent performance from Matthew McConaughey and to some extent, Naomi Watts even if her character is clichéd.



The Sea of Trees

Genre(s): Drama
Lionsgate | PG13 – 111 min. – $24.99 | November 1, 2016

Date Published: 10/20/2016 | Author: The Movieman


Directed by:
Gus Van Sant
Writer(s): Chris Sparling (written by)
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, Naomi Watts
Digital Copy: Yes
Formats Included: Blu-ray
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 22.1 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A


THE MOVIE — 3.5/5

There have been a few movies centered on Aokigahara (a.k.a. Suicide Forest), most recently the horror-thriller, The Forest, which was utterly dreadful. And now we have The Sea of Trees, a far different animal, this one a character study though like the other one, got a thrashing from critics. Going in with some moderate interest, I have to say, while it’s not great and didn’t live up to its potential, The Sea of Trees excels primarily on the performance from Matthew McConaughey.

The story is pretty simple: Arthur Brennan (MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY) is a professor who takes a one-way trip to Japan to visit Aokigahara in order to commit suicide, overdosing on prescription pills. The reason is revealed via flashbacks throughout the film. Just as he’s about to take the pills, he sees a man stumbling through, bleeding from his wrists, arms and head. Apparently this man, who introduces himself as Takumi (KEN WATANABE), has been wandering around, lost for a couple of days.

Arthur sets aside his plans in order to help Takumi get out and soon enough, the pair face obstacles from a downpour, flash floods and severe injuries. Along the way, the two bond over their journies and where we, in fragments, get to see flashbacks of Arthur’s deteriorating marriage to his wife, Joan (NAOMI WATTS), as the two are, in his own words, mean to one another, her resentful of being the soul breadwinner, though a deeper root involves Arthur’s infidelities years earlier. There’s a wonderful, and key scene, in the film where McConaughey’s Arthur bears it all, the closest comparison would be Van Sant’s own Good Will Hunting between Williams and Damon, however that scene is far more powerful, but that’s not to denigrate McConaughey as it’s a great piece of acting.

And that’s really the core of the plot. There’s not a whole lot to it. Sure, there’s a minor twist that anyone could see coming as I did just by reading the synopsis on the back cover of the Blu-ray, but this isn’t about any twist but instead the journey of a man sought with a plethora of emotions, least of which, regret, which as this film demonstrates, is far more powerful than grief, loss and even love. It’s something that struck a chord with me and those scenes between McConaughey and Watts, which seemed superfluous, really gave the film much needed depth.

Outside of McConaughey, though, Ken Watanabe works well opposite him and he doesn’t have any standout moments but Van Sant utilizes his instant charisma to help the audience to care about a character we know little about and serves more as a soundboard (or something like that) for Arthur to bounce emotions off of. Naomi Watts, in her limited role, is alright however she does dangerously swerve into cliché territory playing an alcoholic.

This isn’t to say The Sea of Trees is a great film, however. Even with McConaughey’s performance and some beautiful cinematography by Kasper Tuxen, nicely blending scenes in Japan with its U.S. locations in Massachusetts, the movie doesn’t entirely deliver on an emotional level, or at least as much as it could have. At the end, while it’s a nice and hopefully message, and I walked away satisfied, I can’t say this will resonate beyond this one viewing.

Directed by Gus Van Sant, The Sea of Trees is a bit uneven but still an effective enough drama that works not because of the script or even story but with a fantastic performance from Matthew McConaughey who gives it his all both emotionally and physically. That said, with a script rewrite or two, this could’ve been a true Oscar contender but instead will go down as a movie known for performance over story.



This release comes with a matted slip cover. Inside is a redemption code for the Digital HD copy.

The Sea of Trees: A Story of Beauty and Tragedy (8:17; HD) is a short featurette providing behind-the-scenes footage interspersed with on-set interviews with the cast and crew.

PreviewsSwiss Army Man, Into the Forest, Equals, Mojave, The Lobster


VIDEO – 4.0/5

Lionsgate releases The Sea of Trees shown in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. The video isn’t perfect as it’s not terribly sharp but detail at least was OK and colors tend to lean more toward the natural side with browns mixed in with the lush greens of the forest. The transfer itself though is clean, free of artifacts and aliasing and for the most part is pleasant looking and has a nice bit of pop off the small-big screen.

AUDIO – 4.0/5

The included DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is basic but efficient. The vast bulk of the film, probably 99% of it, is strictly dialogue-driven or quiet moments so, on that front, it’s limited. Dialogue at least is clean and understandable while the rear channels are mostly reserved for ambient noises which are showcased within the forest with odd sounds coming from all directions.


OVERALL – 3.0/5

Overall, The Sea of Trees is a movie more about regret than loss or grief and while the screenplay could’ve used some work, the film itself is worthwhile if only to watch an excellent performance from Matthew McConaughey and to some extent, Naomi Watts even if her character is clichéd. The Blu-ray released by Lionsgate offers good video/audio transfers though the solo featurette is limited.





Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.

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