While ostensibly about the infamous forest, that is merely the backdrop against which Matthew McConaughey (Kubo and the Two Strings) reveals and comes to an understanding with his life. It is also one of his most contained and relaxed performances. While not overly intense, it remains compelling.
Opposite McConaughey are only two other principle actors: Naomi Watts (Demolition) and Ken Watanabe (Godzilla), making this also a very intimate ensemble and tale. Watanabe provides a solid sounding board for McConaughey as the two navigate the trails and trials before them. Into that journey, we get learn about McConaughey’s life with Watts as inter-cut scenes. That relationship is odd, and played very naturalistically… making it feel unreal at times, but it ultimately comes into focus.
Gus Van Sant (Milk) often tackles people at the fringes, and does so with care and love. Sea of Trees is no exception. He takes Chris Sparling’s (Buried) script and focuses on the quiet internal struggle of his characters as they reach out to one another. Though highly internal, the tension of the piece will carry you to the end.
Sea of Trees is not a fast film, it is more of a quiet tour of a man seeking solace and understanding. It is visually poetic and a quiet little gem, even if a tad flawed, worth seeing.