Ossus Library Index Drama Movie Index


Directed by Peter Howitt (1999, Universal Pictures)
Starring Ethan Hawke, James Cromwell, and Youkie Kudoh

A reporter finds evidence on the innocence of a Japanese man about to be convicted of murder, but is reluctant to show it out of jealousy.




June 10th, 2000 on Video


Probably a good story, waiting to come out.  But the flashbacks and editing effects wipe out any chance of figuring it out.  Basically the acting was good, and so was the directing.  As far as I can tell, the writing was pretty good, too.  There were a few moments where I was afraid they would degenerate into standard courtroom banter, but I was relieved when it was avoided.

The music was obviously made to hide the true meanings behind all the scenes.  There were few scenes where I felt that something ominous was about to happen, but it never did. 

A local fisherman is found dead, and a Japanese man is accused of the murder.  All the events in the courtroom seem to fit the prosecution's story.  His history showed that he lost all the land his family had been promised, when he was moved to a "community camp" after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, with the rest of the Japanese Americans.  Years later, he is married, and wants to buy the land back.  The man who now owns it was his friend when they were young, but the relationship is now very strained.  It is very possible that he could have committed the murder.

The local reporter, who is the son of the man who previously owned the local paper, is on hand to view the proceedings.  But there is more to it than that.  He and the Japanese man's wife were once lovers, back when they were teens, before she and her family were moved to the same camp near Seattle. 

At the camp, she realized that they have to move on, and that she needs the company of a Japanese man.  So she gets married, and our reporter feels spurned.  It is during this flashback scene that the echoes of the edit seem to fit.  They don't fit anywhere else. 

The big crisis arrives when he is doing some research at the lighthouse, and discovers that a large freighter veered off course near the dead man's position, at exactly the same time.  He almost burns this information, knowing that the husband will be put in prison for a long, long time.  In a convoluted way, he might have a second chance with the girl. 

Finally, though it's no surprise, he tells the sheriff.  It is almost too late, as the jury has been sent to chambers.  They investigate, and of course, it turns out to be an accident.  I doubt they will get their land, but she seems to forgive him, and he forgives her. 

If it wasn't for the flashbacks, and the way they were handled, I think the movie could have been great.  On the annoying front, I think the prosecution lawyer was way out of place.  He was plain mean, and it didn't fit. 

There was lots of brooding in the present, which felt right, for a small town in the midst of such a trial.  At one point the power goes out, and they are forced to take a break for the rest of the day.  The snow almost does in several members of the defense. 

The best parts were the young flashbacks.  The hollow tree was mesmerizing.  It was their secret rendezvous, when they fell in love, and had their secret and forbidden affair. 

My feeling is that the movie was fairly well acted, the dialogue was good, for the most part, but the editing was very bad, confusing the movie beyond style.


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