The Sea of Trees Screen 12 articles

The Sea of Trees


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  • Whatever variety of trees grow in Japan's infamous Aokigahara — otherwise known as the Suicide Forest — American director Gus Van Sant's lethally tedious new film makes this much clear: they're dangerously full of sap.

  • [Gerry's] minimalism put a lot of trust in the power of images to speak without dialogue and equal trust in the audience’s ability to assimilate their import. Van Sant must have suffered a devastating disillusionment in the intervening thirteen years, as The Sea of Trees feels compelled to spoon-feed every single aspect of its painfully banal story.

  • It’s been a while since a movie’s made me envy a sick person, especially one as cheaply ill as Watts’s character is here. The tooth-pulling required to get to this information qualifies as torture.

  • Gus van Sant is an esteemed auteur and a Palme d’Or winner. But should you really ask a discerning international audience to spend two hours watching something as dreary, sentimental and Hallmark-card pious as Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees?

  • ...How can one explain the presence in Competition of the outright disaster that is Matthew McConaughey’s Japanese suicide sap The Sea of Trees, which sleepwalks its way through an hour of sentimental, Kawase-inspired claptrap before running off the rails, crashing down a mountain, plunging into the water, and nestling at the bottom of the briny depths before being swallowed up by Gamera?

  • Mr. Van Sant has always had a sentimental streak — reaching some kind of apogee with “Restless,” in 2011 — but a better script might have replaced literalness with the emotional intelligence that the film badly needs. We do, however, have the consolations of Kasper Tuxen’s lush photography, which turns the forest into a damp green womb.

  • The pain and hilarity arrive in earnest during the last half hour, as [screenwriter Chris] Sparling first engineers one of the cheapest bits of dramatic irony in cinema history, then follows it up with a sublimely idiotic twist that combines the dopiest instincts of M. Night Shyamalan and Nicholas Sparks... I must confess that I feel some affection for this misbegotten picture. It’s so damn dumb, and so blissfully ignorant of its stupidity, that it becomes almost perversely touching.

  • Gus van Sant has always divided his attention between formal experimentation and saccharin redemption stories, but seldom has he veered so far toward the latter as he does here.

  • The perennially, wildly unpredictable Mr. Van Sant (when he’s good, he’s very, very good, etc.) produces some striking images but never transcends the banality of Christopher Sparling’s script, particularly in flashbacks featuring Arthur’s boozing, hectoring wife (a badly served Naomi Watts) kicking him around the house for some cut-rate George-and-Martha hilarity.

  • The screenplay for The Sea Of Trees, penned by Chris Sparling (Buried), is one of those narrative Rube Goldberg machines where everything falls into place in the unlikeliest, corniest, and worst possible way... As it turns out, there is something worse than Nicholas Sparks, the king of morbid romantic kitsch, and that’s a Nicholas Sparks pretender with highfalutin pretensions.

  • Somewhere between a dumb down/reverse version of the “walk towards death” narrative that long obsesses Van Sant and late Malick (if late Malick had some discipline). The writing is so atrocious it is hard to get why Van Sant and McConaughey decide to give it try, but the former adds some tact and physical presence and the later a committed interiorized performance.

  • As an actor’s showcase, The Sea of Trees at least compares favorably to the repugnant Dallas Buyers Club, and you can’t help but credit that to the fact that this was made by a real director instead of a hack. If only for McConaughey’s impressive turn, and Van Sant’s surface pleasures, this flawed drama deserves something better than its hastily applied film maudit status.

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