The Sea of Trees
|The Sea of Trees|
|Directed by||Gus Van Sant|
|Written by||Chris Sparling|
|Music by||Mason Bates|
The Sea of Trees is a 2015 American drama mystery film directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Chris Sparling. The film stars Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, Naomi Watts, Katie Aselton, and Jordan Gavaris.
The film is about an American man who attempts suicide in Japan's "Suicide Forest", where he meets a Japanese man who is there for the same reason. Principal photography began on July 28, 2014, in Foxborough, Massachusetts; the production moved to Japan in September of the same year. It was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
An American man travels to the "Suicide Forest" (Aokigahara forest) to kill himself at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, the site of numerous suicides. There he encounters a Japanese man, who wants to kill himself as well, and both men begin a journey of self-reflection and survival.
- Matthew McConaughey as Arthur Brennan 
- Ken Watanabe as Takumi Nakamura 
- Naomi Watts as Joan Brennan 
- Katie Aselton 
- Jordan Gavaris 
On December 5, 2013, it was announced that Gus Van Sant would be directing the suicide drama film The Sea of Trees about the "Suicide Forest" (Aokigahara) in Japan, based on the script of Chris Sparling. Ken Watanabe was set to star for one of the lead roles in the film, producing by Gil Netter through his Netter Productions banner. On February 4, 2014, Matthew McConaughey joined the cast of the film for the lead role. On May 13, it was announced that Ken Kao would finance the film through his banner Waypoint Entertainment, and he also launched Bloom to handle the international sales for the film, which he would co-produce with Netter. On May 15, Naomi Watts also joined the cast to star as a female lead in the $25–$28 million budgeted film. The film's international distribution was sold to different companies at 2014 Cannes Film Festival, which includes Entertainment One to handle the rights for UK, Australia and New Zealand, and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions to handle for Eastern Europe, Pan-Latin America and Scandinavia. On August 15, Katie Aselton joined the cast to play a woman who has an affair with McConaughey's character. On September 11, a first look image was revealed. On September 30, it was announced that Jordan Gavaris was also added to the cast.
On May 15, 2014, McConaughey and director Van Sant talked about the upcoming film which was officially slated to start on July 15, Van Sant said, "My latest feelings is to try to shoot in Japan, if it's too difficult, we would probably go to the northwest in the States, where the land is very similar." The film's budget was set at $25 million with McConaughey receiving a $3.5 million salary.
The principal photography of the film began on July 28, 2014, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The crews were filming deep in the woods in the F. Gilbert Hills State Forest, where they were also using the recreation hall and chapel at Cocasset River Recreation Area, which they scheduled to rent again on August 14. Publicist Gregg Brilliant said, "The film makers looked at about half a dozen places around the country. The story takes place in Japan and the Northeast United States, and we chose Massachusetts. It's a beautiful location." 
Shooting began in Massachusetts through September, after which filming moved to Japan. The filming wrapped-up on September 30, 2014, in Massachusetts and Japan, with post-production beginning in Los Angeles.
At its May 2015 Cannes Film Festival debut, the film was met with harsh critical reception; it was loudly booed and laughed at by an audience of critics, and critic Scott Foundas called it a film "for nobody". Some critics were more impressed by the film; Pete Hammond wrote "Their film deserves a better fate" and praised its "paired sentimentality." While he also praised the "beautiful lush score", others found it "cloying" and "ever-present." Critic Richard Mowe stated this audience reaction should "give the film’s creative team pause for reflection about exactly where they went so badly awry." Justin Chang, chief film critic for Variety, deemed the film "dramatically stillborn, commercially unpromising". Chang praised the film's aesthetic, stating "Cinematographer Kasper Tuxen works wonders with the forest’s softly diffused light by day, and makes exquisite use of a campfire to illuminate McConaughey’s and Watanabe’s faces at night." He also described co-star Naomi Watts as "solidly moving and sometimes awesomely passive-aggressive." Nonetheless, he concludes that the film is, "Almost impressive in the way it shifts from dreary two-hander to so-so survival thriller to terminal-illness weepie to M. Night Shyamalan/Nicholas Sparks-level spiritual hokum, this risibly long-winded drama is perhaps above all a profound cultural insult, milking the lush green scenery of Japan’s famous Aokigahara forest for all it’s worth, while giving co-lead Ken Watanabe little to do other than moan in agony, mutter cryptically, and generally try to act as though McConaughey’s every word isn’t boring him (pardon the expression) to death." Further critical dissatisfaction with the film has been attributed to the facts that "the twists and turns of this narrative fail to ring true with too many implausibilities in the plotting to give any credibility" and with its "complete lack of narrative momentum, it all adds up to a film that's easily Van Sant's worst, and is a sad black mark on McConaughey's mostly excellent recent run. Ultimately, "Sea Of Trees" feels like an entirely appropriate title: it makes you feel like you're drowning, and it's full of sap."
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