Matthew McConaughey does a great job in the most generic story of all time.
Matthew McConaughey is Arthur Brennan a man who comes to a famous forest in Japan for suicide to do so himself. His perception is changed when he meets a man named Takumi Nakamura played by Ken Watanabe who needs his help getting out of the forest.
The movie starts off as a culture clash between the American and the Japanese as they discuss their reasons for being in the forest. We see through flashbacks that for Arthur it has to do with his wife, Joan, played by Naomi Watts and for Takumi it’s because of a demotion that will affect him tending to his family. The start of the culture clash goes over my head as neither one of them has given me a good case for ending their life. Then the film hits us with the spiritual differences between cultures, and the whole monologue becomes lame in its predictability.
However, the chemistry between McConaughey and Watanabe is good enough to keep me attracted to what I see on screen, but not as effective as what McConaughey was doing with Watts. Their back and forth as a married couple on shaky ground could not have been more formulated, but it was more about the acting, which made the generic really natural, raw and life like. From the Awkward moments they share while having dinner with their friends, to the way Joan disrespects what Arthur does for a living, I am swept up in the belief that they are a real couple.
Overall, McConaughey had two really good dance partners for this machine he’s running. At the same time, he was given some great solo moments to shine bright like a diamond.
Adding to the brilliant acting, director Gus Van Sant creates a very spiritual environment used to explore life and death and everything in-between. It was ghostly and haunting as well. The imagery may have been subtle but it captures its beauty nicely, and the music composed complements the environment so well. Very captivating.
The Sea of Trees biggest fail point, and it is a big one, is the narrative is so formatted, I felt like a fortune teller looking into a crystal ball. As touching as the performances were and what top notch film crafting I see, I cannot get past how unoriginal this story line is. In their attempts at laying out the darkness of life, how the ups only go so high, but the downs can go really low, they created a pathway that a viewer could go through blindfolded. No surprises and no originality.
In the end, The Sea of Tress is a decent small vehicle for Matthew McConaughey to drive, showing off his acting chops behind the wheel as a lead actor, but I’ve seen him do just as good of a job in far better small vehicles.