Snow Falling on Cedars ***1/2 (out of 5) (1999)

Cast: Ethan Hawke, James Cromwell, Richard Jenkins, Youki Kudoh

Directed by Scott Hicks

Just off the Washington shore, a fisherman is found dead in his own nets with a wound to the head. Murder is supected and the only suspect is another fisherman, who happens to be Japanese in a time when post-WWII sentiments are stacked against him. Now he's on trial and all evidence points to his conviction, and the one man who may be able to set him free sees his incarceration as his only chance to get the Japanese fisherman's wife, with whom he is desperately in love.

SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS is really two movies in one: a courtroom drama and a love story. As a courtroom drama, it's very standard fare, really throwing obvious curves to make things interesting, but I doubt anyone will be surprised as events unfold. As a romance, the film ismuch more successful, and perhaps more concentration in this area would have made a good movie great. Niceley directed by Scott Hicks (SHINE), and with a very effective cast of character actors, the film moves along a bit slowly but ultimately pays off with a very fine last 20 minutes of emotional resolutions. Well-made and touching.

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