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Movie Review

Snow Falling on Cedars

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing war images, sensuality and brief strong language

Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
STAFF WRITER

Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
Genre:
Romance Drama
Length:
2 hr. 7 min.
Year of Release:
1999
USA Release:
_____
Relevant Issues
Ethan Hawke and Youki Kudoh

What does the Bible say about interracial marriage or dating? GO

How could all the races come from Noah, his three sons, and their wives? GO

Featuring: Youki Kudoh, Ethan Hawke, Rick Yune, Anthony Harrison, Max von Sydow
Director: Scott Hicks
Producer: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall
Distributor: Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures is to be applauded for creating “Snow Falling on Cedars”, a thoughtful film containing little offensive material (some brief scenes of sensuality and language). Overall, a film that many Christians can appreciate for what it is.

“Snow Falling on Cedars” tells the story of a murder trial set in the 1950’s. It involves Kazuo Miyamoto (Rick Yume), who is now married to Hatsue (Youki Kudoh). To be found in this film is a tender retrospective love story between Ishmael Chambers (Ethan Hawke), son of a local newspaper editor and Hatsue Miyamoto before her marriage to Kazuo. Their story of past love (and present love from Ishmael) is told through flashbacks and well-crafted events that make more sense as the film progresses.

Scene from “Snow Falling on Cedars”
Max von Sydow and Rick Yune in “Snow Falling on Cedars”

This is not your ordinary love triangle. A careful historical piece, this story examines the paths that prejudice can take in the setting of a small Pacific town still reeling from the effects of the Pearl Harbor bombing. Asians are persecuted; people are tragically being herded into internment camps. (Not everyone is aware of this piece of American history). The incidents shown are well-crafted and treated with tremendous dignity and respect.

Viewers will need to be patient as the plot unfolds. If you like quick and easily understood stories, “Snow Falling On Cedars” may not be for you. But if you like stories with strong values and aren’t afraid to let the plot unfold gradually, you will most likely love this film.

On the negative side, there are a couple of inferences to pre-marital sex. While I do not condone these actions, its placement in the storyline is not overdone. The hero in the end of the story does make some difficult decisions, in spite of the strong feelings he still has for Hatsue. There are also some disturbing war scenes.

I loved how the film handled friendship, loyalty, and the difficult issues of prejudice. How do we handle the delicate issues of discrimination? There is plenty to discuss with your teen in this multi-layered film. Sam Shephard, Max von Sydow, and James Rebhorn give strong performances. Overall, “Snow Falling on Cedars” is the mildest PG-13 film I have seen in a long time. I strongly recommend this film for teens and adults.


Viewer Comments
Loved the book. The movie follows the book VERY closely. However, I was very disappointed with the movie, as it moved too slowly and there was not enough dialog to explain the situations. Not recommended. My Ratings: [4/1]
—Sandra Curry
…this film is a tender retrospective love story between Ishmael Chambers (Ethan Hawke), son of a local newspaper editor and Hatsue Miyamoto before her marriage to Kazuo.” This love story artfully depicts on film the progression from childhood playmates, to kissing 13-year-olds, to high-school students in an intimate sexual relationship. However, tastefully done, this major mainstream movie displays juveniles having sex. It would not be just a step from this movie to the filming of child sex. This movie is already there. That it is tastefully done only blazes a trail for more graphic displays of the same subject matter. This is a trend that we need not continue. My Ratings: [2/4½]
—Brian Eargle, age 52
This film was extremely well constructed. I believe that this film dealt with many issues that have never been handled. The portrayal of an internal struggle is crafted to perfection. This film is very slow at times, but give it time to unfold. “Snow Falling on Cedars” gave a very real view of life and the battles and choices that must be made. There was very little language and we see a couple passionately kiss lying down. It is also assumed (no nudity) that they had pre-marital sex. Again, the issues that this movies wades through are very real within the characters. I would highly recommend for a mature audience (upper teens and adults). My Ratings: [4/4½]
—Jeremy Sarver, age 21
This is an extremely well crafted film. All the elements, cinematography, score, dialog, character development and story line blend amazingly well to paint a picture of 1950’s prejudice on many levels and human redemption. The performances are exceptional. There is a ongoing love affair that culminates in pre-marital sexual encounter that proves to be the major turning point for one of the main characters. Little to offend and a lot to love about this film. It is an onion to be peeled slowly. If you only like action films with little or no story, this film is not for you. As the other guest commentator said, “I can’t wait to read the book.
—Jef DeMarie, age 54
This was a very interesting and well shot film. The acting in the film was great, and this is a film well worth seeing. The content in the film, as the reviewer says above, is very mild. And even in the few objectionable scenes (which were not needed in this film at all), they were done in a way so you couldn’t see any nudity. The film will make you want to read the book! My Ratings: [4/4½]
—Anon., age 16
Insightful of the human condition, “Snow Falling on Cedars” causes the viewer to examine a community’s turmoil and struggle for integrity, and the courage of some to overcome prejudice in favor of doing the right and honorable thing. …The fictional account of circumstantial accusation is not new, but is given a fresh and haunting face. An authentic historical context creates a credible premise for the injustice portrayed. “Snow Falling on Cedars” delivers a thought provoking message, and in so doing surpasses many of today’s films in substance and merit. Well directed and edited; very worthwhile viewing. My Ratings: [3/4]
—Dave Shifflett, age 47
I thought this movie was very good, Ethan Hawke was amazing! I was a little disturbed at how young she looked. I loved the movie though, it was very moving and interesting. I can’t wait to read the book. My Ratings: [3½/4]
—Hannah, age 18