The Sea of Trees

Fake, forced and dreary suicide drama that will bore you to death

What was Gus Van Sant thinking? The amateurish story has a depressed Matthew McConaughey flying one-way to Tokyo and going straight to Aokigahara forest, renowned in Japan as the absolutely coolest place to off oneself.

His sleeping-pill popping is interrupted by a Japanese man (Ken Watanabe) wandering aimlessly with slit wrists. He binds the fellow’s wounds and tries to guide him to safety but realizes that the trail out has disappeared. He is then injured in a fall, a freak rainstorm strikes, and soon, the two men, quite ironically, are fighting for their lives.

They bond. When Matthew asks Ken why he wants to die, the reply is, “I was demoted by my company and given a desk by the window.” This takes about 45 seconds. The rest of this long-winded, booed-at-Cannes train wreck is taken up by repeated flashbacks explaining Matthew’s reasons, which involve his deceased, alcoholic wife (Naomi Watts).

So we have a fake, forced and dreary suicide drama, a maa-maa survival adventure and a terminal illness, all topped off by a bit of insipid quasi-supernatural flummery you’d expect from M. Night Shayamalan.

There’s a “surprise” third-act twist involving a dump truck that’s so predictable it would make Nicholas Sparks gag. But no, I thought, a director of Van Sant’s stature would never stoop to such a gimmick. Wrong again. This is the filmmaker, mind you, who crafted such films as Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, To Die For, Good Will Hunting, and Milk.

So. Feeling suicidal? Go see this. It’ll bore you to death. Japanese title: Tsuioku no Mori. (110 min)