‘The Sea of Trees’ is a particularly miserable slog from beginning to end. In the story, Matthew McConaughey’s character (Arthur) is going to a famous suicide forest in Japan to fall down in the woods and pick flowers (or die…..maybe). It is here that he meets another suicidal guy named Takumi (Ken Watanabe) and they decide together that they don’t want to die. Then, the two get lost in the forest, fall down a lot, and reflect on life. Arthur’s reflections are seen in flash back.
The flashbacks are what truly make the film and sadly, they are ridiculously cliche’ in their degrading level of obvious misery. Arthur fight with his wife Joan (Naomi Watts) about money, jobs, and alcoholism. Then she gets sick. And more misery ensues that I won’t reveal, but what matters is it’s all abundantly obvious and might evoke more eye rolling than tears. I try to give all characters the benefit of the doubt, yet these were so by the numbers that I had a hard time seeing them as people.
It’s not all bad. There are some decent scenes sprinkled throughout. The message of figuring a way to move on is an important one. The performances are all uniformly good. And there are occasionally some good shots here and there. However, it is not enough to make up for the mopey and muddled narrative that left me struggling to stay awake through its 110 minute running time. Someone may enjoy it, but I couldn’t wait for it to end.
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