Friday, September 2, 2016

The Sea of Trees

Last night I survived Hurricane Hermine with my little dogs. It was the first Florida hurricane in my memory, although I did make it through at least two others in Miami as a small child.  Those storms were so long ago I have no memories of them.

Hermine turned out to be mostly bluster in my part of Jacksonville. We didn't lose power, didn't get much rain, but had lots of wind from midnight until about 10 this morning. Of course the aftermath of the storm still has us with intermittent winds of 20-30 mph with gusts of 45 mph.  Needless to say, I thought about getting out and going somewhere, but common sense prevailed. So I stayed in and searched for a movie to watch on pay-per-view.

Thus, I found "The Sea of Trees", an atmospheric, enigmatic film starring Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, and Naomi Watts. This one is also in limited release in theaters right now.

It's the story of Arthur Brennan (McConaughey) a science professor at a college in New England.  His wife Joan (Naomi Watts) is constantly sniping at him, disappointed in his lack of ambition. She is a successful realtor and pays most of the bills.

As the story begins, he parks in an airport parking lot, leaves his car unlocked with the keys on the seat, and shuffles into the terminal. Like an automaton he goes through the process of checking in for his flight to Japan. On the plane he refuses anything to eat or drink. On arrival, he takes a taxi to a train station and boards the bullet train. The older Japanese couple sitting across from him watch him with apprehension.  You see this train makes a stop near Aokigahara (The Sea of Trees) - also known as the Suicide Forest.

In case you've missed stories about The Sea of Trees, it is a forest at the foot of Mt. Fuji. For generations, Japanese citizens have gone to those woods to commit suicide. It is reported to be haunted with the souls of those who took their lives there.

When Brennan arrives at the forest entrance, he enters and begins trekking deeper into the woods. He runs across Takumi Nakamura (Watanabe) battered with cuts, bruises, and leaking wrists from a failed suicide attempt. Nakamura has apparently changed his mind. He asks Brennan to help him as he is lost and cannot find his way out. So Brennan bandages Nakamura's wrists and shows him the way.

But something is wrong, Brennan was certain he knew the way out, but he cannot find the path to the exit. While they stumble through the thick forest and the bodies of successful suicides in various states of decomposition, he has flashbacks of his recent life and what led him to The Sea of Trees.

Does this sound like a horror movie to you? I can see where it would, but it isn't. It's a journey of discovery born of loss.

The ending is lovely. What can I say? I'm a sucker for spirituality and the healing it can bring.

The biggest surprise for me in the film is that it was filmed in Massachusetts, even the scenes for The Sea of Trees. They had some long shots of Mt. Fuji, but the rest was made in New England.

I have always loved Ken Watanabe, he is a talented actor capable of playing any part. McConaughy has proven his talent, especially in recent years.  He was incredible in "Dallas Buyers Club." Naomi Watts is a talented actress who has played many different kinds of roles. They form a powerful triumvirate of actors who bring life to these characters.

Maybe I'm coming down off the high of surviving the hurricane with relative ease, who knows? This film affected me more than any film I've seen in the last few months, at least.

Available on pay-per-view, at least on Comcast, and in limited theatrical review, it's worth a bit of work to find it in your area.

This one will stay with you for a while.

Until next time, take care, and avoid big blowhards with fancy French names!!!

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