The Sea Of Trees
Could it be? Could we have a year with not one but TWO films involving the Aokigahara forest at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan? The name itself of course means The Sea Of Trees, thus the title of this film.
Normally when you have doppelganger movies they are pretty close in genre. Sure, for example, we might have Olympus Has Fallen vs White House Down, where one is more humorous, but they are both action movies still.
In this case, we have The Sea Of Trees as a serious drama film vs The Forest, a horror movie. Not just a horror movie, a JANUARY horror film, the worst of the bunch usually.
And The Forest was bad, but not worst of the year bad. Just really bad and not worth further discussion. So it should be easy to actually make a good drama film about this subject. It should be.
Oh no, look at all these talented actors.
The film begins with Arthur Brennan (Matthew McConaughey), looking disheveled with no carry on, buying a ticket to Tokyo without a return flight planned. A very dialogue light beginning, he makes his way in the city, and heads of course to the suicide forest. A camera shows him enter the entrance, many signs in English and Japanese telling him to think of what to live for. Eventually he sees the many strings from the path, picks a direction and finds a place to kill himself.
He is making it simple. He has some water, some pills, and he will do it that way. But while taking the pills, he hears a voice. It belongs to Takumi Nakamura (Ken Watanabe), a businessman lost. Sure, he has cuts on his arms, but he changed his mind while in the forest and just wants to find a way out. He was dishonored at work (classic Japanese way to die), but realized he cannot leave his wife and kids. Arthur agrees to help him find the path back of course, and in doing so they get more and more lost together.
Speaking of wives, Arthur has one, Joan (Naomi Watts). Their relationship is difficult at times, but don’t worry, we will get flashbacks of events while they are wandering the forest, looking for help, to see just why Arthur came here in the first place. And yes, it is the obvious reasons.
Because they look so uncomfortable together in sweaters.
Well, it happened. At almost two hours long, they did the unthinkable. They made a film about a famous suicide location worse than the horror film about the same location. The Forest wasn’t good, but it had its moments, some decent lines, and at least I was interested in it every once in awhile.
The Sea Of Trees is drawn out and melodramatic. It tells the story in the longest way possible. Most of it can be figured out early in the film, so when the film finally reveals all of its twists, it does nothing for the viewer. You can imagine the movie being some pompass ass, standing over you, proud of what it achieved, not realizing it achieved shit.
Watanabe’s character is unfortunately a stereotype. There is no saving it, but they should have done something better than suicidal Japanese businessman. It is almost insulting. By dragging out McConaughey’s story too, the viewer is left assuming he is there for mostly superficial reasons. But in the end once we see his whole back story, we see that he is actually there for indeed, superficial reasons.
None of the critically acclaimed actors in this film give a strong performance. It takes a serious subject but doesn’t seem to be handled with actual caring hands. The entire thing feels like a long drawn out shallow story, meant to be something significant, but really being worse than most other films this year.