xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
"Snow Falling on Cedars" is a rich, multilayered film about a high school romance and a murder trial a decade later. The young lovers are Ishmael Chambers (Ethan Hawke), son of the local newspaper editor in a small Pacific Northwest town, and Hatsue Miyamoto (Youki Kudoh), daughter of Japanese Americans. They meet at the time of Pearl Harbor, when feeling runs high against local Asians. Ishmael's father (Sam Shepard) runs editorials thundering, "these people are our neighbors," but then the U.S. government seizes their property and trucks them off to internment camps in a shameful chapter of American history. Nine years later, Ishmael is a reporter at the paper, covering a murder trial. The defendant is the man Hatsue married in the camp.
Told this way, the story seems like crime and romance, but "Snow Falling on Cedars" reveals itself with the complexity of a novel, holding its themes up to the light so that first one and then another aspect can be seen. The style is crucial to the subject. The story unfolds in flashbacks, overlapping dialogue, half-understood events, flashes of memory, all seen in a variety of visual styles: Color, desaturated color, black and white, even a little grainy 16 mm. The look and sound of the film are not just easy flashiness, but match the story, which depends on the many different ways that the same events can be seen.
Above all there is a sense of place. Director Scott Hicks and his cinematographer, Robert Richardson, use a wide-screen canvas to envelop the story in trees and snow, rain and lowering skies, wetness and shadows. Rarely has a place been so evoked as part of a narrative. We sense that these people are neighbors partly because the forests crowd them together.
In this community the Japanese Americans work as fishermen and shepherds, farmers and small-business holders, and their teenagers dance to the same pop tunes as everybody else. Yes, the races keep to themselves: Ishmael's mother disapproves of her son's friendship with Hatsue, whose own mother warns her against white boys. But boys with girls in love will fall, as e.e. cummings so simply put it, and Ishmael and Hatsue have a hidey-hole, a green cavern in the roots of a big cedar tree, where they meet to feel happy with one another. He asks her to marry him, and perhaps, if it had not been for the overwhelming fact of the war, this would have been a high school romance with a happy ending.