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Snow Falling on Cedars

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Snow Falling on Cedars

Starring: Ethan Hawke, James Cromwell
Director: Scott Hicks
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 126 Minutes
Release Date: December 1999
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Richard Jenkins, James Rebhorn, Sam Shepard, Zeljko Ivanek, Eric Thal, Max von Sydow, Youki Kudoh, Rick Yune

Review by MrBrown
3½ stars out of 4

Ethan Hawke may topline the credits of this adaptation of David Guterson's highly-esteemed novel, but neither he nor anyone else in the cast can lay claim to being the "star" of the film. That title belongs to director/co-scripter (with Ron Bass) Scott Hicks, who has crafted a lushly evocative mood piece that has everything to do with sense and emotion as it doesn't with traditional plot-driven satisfactions.

Of course, there is a story here, and the primary one revolves around the 1950 trial of Japanese-American Kazuo Miyamoto (Rick Yune), who is charged with murder. Kazuo is married to Hatsue (Youki Kudoh), whose heart truly belongs to the caucasian Ishmael Chambers (Hawke), who runs the local newspaper in the Pacific Northwest community of San Piedro. They have been in love ever since they were children, but anti-Japanese sentiment during the WWII-era--culminating in her family's incarceration in the internment camp of Manzanar--tore them apart.

There are more secondary character touches, such as Ishmael's struggle with living up to his father's (Sam Shepard) legacy as a newspaperman, but all of the narrative comes secondary to the depth of feeling Hicks, cinematographer Robert Richardson, and composer James Newton Howard are able to convey through imagery. For a two-hour-plus film, _Snow_ is startlingly short on dialogue, relying on sight and sound to tell the story for extended passages. It's said that a picture says a thousand words, and the images in the film speak a lot more about the emotion of the piece than any scripted lines. This is best exemplified by the central Ishmael-Hatsue romance; Hawke and Kudoh barely share any screen time, but one can feel the longing between them to the point of heartache. The story eventually catches up and converges with the atmosphere in the end, making for the perfectly transcendent conclusion to this beautiful work of art.

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