Unexpected High Levels of Schmaltz
Snoogans - wrote on 09/07/16
'The Sea of Trees' is director Gus Van Sant's latest heavy drama. I like the guy's style, even if I don't care for all of his films. That said, this may very well be one of his worst efforts. His visual direction and the highly capable actors are really the only positives I can muster for this film. We start with a great long scene of little dialogue that perfectly sets up our main character and his goal of suicide. I was in. Then the the rest of the film started a slow downhill roll into predictable nonsense. Arthur (McConaughey) visits Japan's famed Aokigahara Forrest (aka Suicide Forrest) to do just that. He meets another man (Watanabe) who has slit his wrists, but has had a change of heart and is desperately lost in the dense forrest. The two then become lost together and spend the rest of the film surviving nature and confiding in each other over their problems. Or, I mean, Arthur's problems. We see all the emotionally painful events that lead him to the forrest through interlaced flashbacks of the marital troubles between he and his wife (Watts). These scenes, though well acted, are filled with a contrived dramatic air of falsehood. Their relationship problems boil down to cliched "movie" matters of well-off intellects. The emotions aren't felt at all due to pervading detachment. The couple's strife takes more cliched turns as it progresses. The reasoning for our lack of involvement with Watanabe's character comes in the form of an easily foreseen twist which adds much schmaltz to the proceedings. Obvious metaphors are told directly to us in a drawn out finale. No real heavy emotional territory, or thoughtful insight, is ever explored. So much more could've been done with this subject matter. All we are left with is a cliched, predictable, schmaltzy drama masquerading as something of more value.