DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

The Sea of Trees Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

The Sea of Trees (2016) movie poster The Sea of Trees

Theatrical Release: August 26, 2016 / Running Time: 111 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Gun Van Sant / Writer: Chris Sparling

Cast: Matthew McConaughey (Arthur Brennan), Ken Watanabe (Takumi Nakamura), Naomi Watts (Joan Brennan), Katie Aselton (Gabriella Laforte), Jordan Gavaris (Eric), Bruce Norris (Dr. Howerton)

Buy The Sea of Trees from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD + Digital Instant Video

On paper, The Sea of Trees was foreseen as a potentially serious awards contender. You had two-time Academy Award nominee Gus Van Sant (Milk, Good Will Hunting) directing Matthew McConaughey
fresh off his Oscar win and so-called McConaissance telling a serious story certain to move. Alas, movies can't live on paper. This one premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2015, where it was met with boos.

As crazy as it sounds, many a film has been booed at Cannes including some highly revered works given the Palme d'Or like Pulp Fiction, Taxi Driver, and The Tree of Life. But this reception was, along with the icy reviews that would soon follow, the beginning of bad news for Sea of Trees. Originally slated to open at the end of 2015, the film was dropped by distributors and eventually picked up by A24, who treated it to a nominal release and modest expansion on two of the slowest moviegoing weekends of this year, generating further criticism along with perhaps inevitable public apathy.

Sea of Trees opens with Arthur Brennan (McConaughey) buying a one-way ticket to Tokyo. Upon arriving, Arthur soon calmly and silently walks into a forest known for being a suicide hotspot. (Yes, the very setting of the January horror movie The Forest.) Gradually, flashbacks explain how he got here, contemplating quite seriously ending his life with prescription pills. The flashbacks reveal some major marital problems between the underachieving adjunct science professor and his resentful wife (Naomi Watts), who we later learn is wrestling with a potentially malignant mass on her brain.

Calm but determined to end his life, Arthur Brennan (Matthew McConaughey) walks into the sea of trees in "The Sea of Trees."

Arthur's suicide plans change when he crosses paths with Takumi Nakamura (Ken Watanabe), a Japanese family man who is also in the forest to end his life. Lost and stranded, the two men form a friendship as they try to stay alive amidst some harsh elements.

Written by Chris Sparling (best known for the Ryan Reynolds-trapped-in-a-coffin thriller Buried), Sea of Trees is a melancholy rumination that provides an earnest and believable portrait of personal, professional, and marital woes. Where it will lose many viewers is in its final act, when all is revealed and a twist proves what has transcended to be a bit different from how it was presented.
It is bold and emotional storytelling, which McConaughey and Watanabe do an admirable job of selling. But not everyone will want to buy it, particularly in the abrupt change from the realistic to the...supernatural.

Grossing just $20 thousand domestically on a production budget of $25 million, The Sea of Trees is a costly failure. Outside of Good Will Hunting and to a lesser degree the enjoyable Finding Forrester, Van Sant's films have never been commercial draws. His most mainstream production, 1998's infamous shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, was dead on arrival. Still, this has to sting a little and make it harder to find funding for his next film, while McConaughey looks to rebound in The Weinstein Company's potential awards contender Gold opening wide on Christmas Day.

One of the distributors that dropped the film, Lionsgate still brings it to home video this week in DVD + Digital and Blu-ray + Digital HD editions per their partnership with A24.

The Sea of Trees: Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Not Subtitled
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as DVD + Digital ($19.98 SRP) and on Instant Video


Nicely photographed, The Sea of Trees looks good on Blu-ray, its mostly outdoors 2.40:1 compositions staying sharp and spotless through sunlight and darkness alike. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack doesn't grab your attention in any major way, but it gets the job done without any concerns.

Naomi Watts and Matthew McConaughey discuss "The Sea of Trees" at Cannes 2015, where the film's hopes quickly went south. The Sea of Trees' Blu-ray menu is surprisingly lively for a film that few would describe as vibrant.


The Sea of Trees is joined by just one on-disc extra,
titled "The Sea of Trees: A Story of Beauty and Tragedy." This 8-minute, 17-second featurette unfolds with the usual stuff: behind-the-scenes footage and talking heads. The closest thing to distinguishing it is the fact that some of the comments come from the film's panel at Cannes.

Trailers repeats the disc-opening previews for Swiss Army Man, Into the Forest, Equals, Mojave, and The Lobster.

The menu plays clips in rectangles around character stills set against a gray forest backdrop.

The slipcovered eco-friendly keepcase holds an insert supplying Digital HD with UltraViolet code and directions alongside the plain gray disc.

Arthur (Matthew McConaughey) Japan's suicide forest is better with a friend (Ken Watanabe) by your side.


Entering with low expectations allowed me to find the much-maligned The Sea of Trees not so bad at all. While its final act is tough to swallow, up until then it proves to be a reasonably compelling examination of a life and a marriage. Lionsgate's Blu-ray + Digital HD release is as basic as any, but the feature presentation is commendable.

Buy The Sea of Trees from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD + Digital Instant Video

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
New to Disc: Into the Forest Mr. Church Swiss Army Man
Matthew McConaughey: Dallas Buyers Club The Wolf of Wall Street Interstellar The Paperboy
Naomi Watts: Demolition St. Vincent The Impossible Adore While We're Young | Ken Watanabe: Godzilla (2014)
Written by Chris Sparling: Buried

DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed November 1, 2016.

Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2016 A24, Bloom, Gil Netter Productions, Waypoint Entertainment, and Lionsgate.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.