Reviewer's Rating 3 out of 5  
Snow Falling on Cedars (1988)

Director Hicks' follow-up to "Shine", "Snow Falling on Cedars", is a romantic drama set in the American Northwest, as well as a historical look at Japanese immigrants after the Second World War.

Adapting a novel for the screen is a tricky business. When the book is as multi-layered and multiple-plotted as the bestseller Snow Falling On Cedars, it's nigh on impossible. And unfortunately, while the movie is certainly beautiful to look at, the simple quantity of storylines make this film far too meandering.

It begins with a court case in wintry Washington State where a Japanese man, Kazuo (Yune), is accused of murdering a fellow fisherman. Observing the trial is Ishmael (Hawke) - a local journalist, whose childhood sweetheart Hatsue (Kudoh), is now Kazuo's girlfriend.

And if you think a courtroom drama/love story is enough to deal with, there is also an examination into the racism against the Japanese in America after the Second World War.

As you can see, all this is just too much to cram into a single movie. Flitting between the court case and flashbacks of Ishmael and Hatsue, the film tries to tell all these stories simultaneously. And while the themes are sound - lost love, bigotry, and so on - it is at the expense of a coherent film.

The cinematography is spectacular, the American Northwest rendered in such spectacular detail that you can almost feel the flakes coming down from the sky. But elegant scenery does not a good movie make, and Hicks' obvious love of the source material makes for a well made, but ultimately uninspiring film.

End Credits

Director: Scott Hicks

Writer: Ron Base, Scott Hicks

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Max Von Sydow, Youki Kudoh, Rick Yune

Genre: Drama

Length: 127 minutes

Cinema: 1988

DVD: 13 November 2000

VHS: 5 March 2001

Country: USA

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