Matthew L. Brady’s review published on Letterboxd:
I can't remember the last time I wanted to see a film so badly just to see what all the bad reception was about. For what was my most anticipated movie of 2015 to suddenly get forgotten after one screening at a festival, which that alone is bad sigh that your movie is bad. I loved "Elephant" and I couldn't wait to see this, but my heart sank after seeing the bad press the film got from the Cannes screening. Even reading the bad reviews I still couldn't get a gasp of how this turned out bad and it only made me want to see the movie even more.
And I finally got a chance to watch it and while I don't think it's as awful as people have said, but this is unfortunately a messy film that could have easily been good. If only it was in the right hands.
I remember a time when I couldn't stand McConaughey, but he really has proven himself as an actor that it eventually did win me over. And in this movie I would say that McConaughey did a decent performance and in the scenes where the character is having a breakdown I thought he was pretty good. Unfortunately it wasn't a great performance and that's because there was plenty of times where I found myself laughing at the wrong moments. There's a scene in this movie where McConaughey character falls over and lands straight down onto his face, and the sound of him in pain was so weird but laughable at the same time. I can't believe Gus Van Sant looked at that scene and thought it was good. Like, Come on Gus.
Gus Van Sant has made many movies that I liked and some that I consider misfires. But I personally think that this is Gus Van Sant biggest misfire, because there's nothing special in the film making and a lot of things felt like it was missing something. It lacks detail and there's so many things in this that I felt was a miss opportunity of being great. And the cheap flashback scenes really do drag this out and wasn't that interesting that I kinda zoned out every time it cuts back. It would have been great if there was a little bit of Mystery to McConaughey character of why he's there and what is he's motivations to bring himself to do this and drop little hints to get us thinking. But instead we get lazy flashback scenes with him and his wife (played by Naomi Watts) that makes it very clear straight away of what he's motivation are for ending he's life, because it's that predictable.
This movie is so predictable that I saw a lot of things coming. Like if a scene seems a bit too happy (for a depressing movie like this), you know something bad is going to happen and of course something bad happens. This really hurts the movie in terms of the emotional elements, because when there's tragic or emotional happening, I'm not really feeling it as I saw it coming miles away.
For a premise like this, that involves two suicidal people lost deep in the Forrest that's known for people going there to take their own lives, should at least been interesting. It should have a took a risk by asking unique and challenging questions that would make you think.
What really makes us so alive?
What's the reason to stay alive?
It should have challenge you as an audience member and while some may disagree with it, at least it gets you talking.
Overall rating: The Sea of Trees was dull, empty and a massive disappointment. But hey, at least I finally know why this was panned by critics.
Here's that scene I was talking about: vine.co/v/5bDIV0rtUxL