Since establishing himself as a worthy dramatic actor, Matthew McConaughey has made a career out of characters in deep introspection, men questioning the meaning and mysteries of the world around them. He did it best with Rust Cohle, he did it again with Cooper in Interstellar, he did it in those Lincoln commercials, and there were hints of it in Free State of JonesAnd now McConaughey is on another spiritual journey, this time in a forest.

In Gus Van Sant‘s The Sea of TreesMcConaughey plays Arthur Brennan, an American writer and professor who his wife Joan (Naomi Watts) calls a pretend intellectual. The new trailer for the film cuts between moments of Joan getting diagnosed with cancer and Arthur reflecting on his life during a soul-searching journey in a Japanese forest. McConaughey, at his most McConaughey, stares into a fire and reflects on faith and life alongside a stranger played by Ken Watanabe. Here’s the full synopsis:

Matthew McConaughey stars as Arthur Brennan, an American professor who travels to Japan in the midst of a personal crisis. As he wanders through a mysterious forest with a dark past, he experiences flashbacks of his fraught but loving relationship with his wife, Joan (Naomi Watts), and meets an enigmatic stranger, Takumi (Ken Watanabe), who is lost and injured. Arthur devotes himself to saving Takumi and returning him home to safety, and the two embark on a spiritual, life-changing journey of friendship, discovery, and healing.

The movie notoriously got panned after its Cannes debut last year, and currently holds a solid 0 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics called it Van Sant’s “worst movie“ and “shallow“ for how it handles topics of grief and depression. The new trailer doesn’t look nearly as bad as the reviews claim it to be (for one, it looks pretty gorgeous). But the trailer does look potentially problematic, depicting The Sea of Trees as another tale of a sad white man traveling to foreign lands for answers on grief and loss. (And we’ve seen enough of that before.)

It’s an interesting concept, to examine how various cultures grapple with universal emotions and dramatic life-changing experiences, but does the white person always have to have a mystical person of color as their guide to wisdom? Have we reached exhaustion on McConaughey’s philosophical musings? We’ll find out when The Sea of Trees hits theaters and VOD on August 26.

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