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CANNES 2015 Review: Sea of Trees

The end of the McConaissance is nigh. Matthew McConaughey began a career makeover beginning with his performance in Killer Joe, which now appears to be coming to an end. After the actor’s mumbling mess of a performance in Interstellar, one would hope that the Nolan sci-fi film was just a misstep for the actor, but the latest McConaughey starrer, Gus Van Sant’s Sea Of Trees unfortunately proves that this may not be the case.

There’s no denying that Van Sant is one of American cinema’s most beloved auteurs, yet any Van Sant film will admit that the director has had his missteps (Psycho and Restless immediately come to mind). The director’s latest film may perhaps be his weakest effort yet. McConaughey stars as Arthur, a man on route to Japan’s notorious Suicide Forest where he plans to take his life. Initially, it is unclear why Arthur wants to kill himself, but flashbacks throughout reveal a tragedy related to his marriage with his wife Joan (Naomi Watts). Just before he plans to do the deed, Arthur is interrupted by Takumi (Ken Watanabe), a man who has attempted suicide, and now demands that Arthur help him save his life.

There’s a whole lot of eye rolling involved in the Sea of Trees viewing experience. From Watanabe’s mythical Japanese savior, to McConaughey’s continued mumbling, to Van Sant’s hack ending, there is not much that really works here. There are rumblings of a semi-coherent film in Sea of Trees, so the possibility that it some heavy work in the editing room could revive the film, but in its current state Sea of Trees is quite the disaster. That being said, the cinematography is nice. So there is that.

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Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.