There is a spiritual take on The Sea of Trees
Gus Van Sant is a powerful director who tackles our human inner turmoil in films such as My Own Private Idaho and now The Sea of Trees. With these stories, Van Sant gets inside the mind of the characters, to the point where you viscerally feel their pain as much as possible from a 2D medium.
In The Sea of Trees, Matthew McConaughey gives an unmitigated and moving portrayal as Arthur, a husband wrestling with his inner demons in the midst of the deterioration of his marriage. Naomi Watts as Arthur’s wife Joan (shown in flashbacks) is a complex character, a functioning alcoholic who blames her husband for her own unhappiness. When Joan is diagnosed with a brain tumor, Arthur and Joan realize that their need to blame has blinded their deep love for one another.
McConaughey’s character Arthur deals with his consuming misery by traveling to Aokigahara, a forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, also known as the Sea of Trees. Hundreds of people attempt to end their lives in this forest each year. In the dark and haunting vastness, Arthur meets Takumi Nakamura, played by Ken Watanabe. The two encounter challenges that test their will to survive. During his ordeals in the dark Sea of Trees, Arthur reviews his marriage and discovers his inner light.
Through the evocative storytelling and powerful visuals and cinematography, The Sea of Trees takes the viewer deep inside Arthur’s struggles and inspires us to reflect on our own lives. The different views of a seemingly endless and treacherous forest provide a strong metaphor for purgatory where Arthur engages in a spiritual quest that is literally life or death. McConaughey’s performance as Arthur is visceral and convincing—he is confused and suffering, grateful and accepting. Director Van Sant was nominated for the 2015 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for The Sea of Trees which opens in select theaters nationwide and through Video on Demand (VOD) on August 26.