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It's 1950 on San Pedro Island in the American Pacific Northwest. Commercial fisher Carl Heine Jr.'s dead body is pulled out of the water in a fishing net by his crew, he who died of head trauma. Kazuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder. Carl and Kazuo were once friends, had known each other since childhood, but WWII has placed a strain on any sort of relationship between the ethic Japanese and Caucasian populations of the area, the Japanese population which was and is still substantial on the island. Carl had motive regarding a land dispute between the two families, land which Carl's mother eventually sold from under the Miyamotos and which Carl had just repurchased. Evidence also points to Kazuo being on the water with Carl probably sometime during his last voyage, evidence which Kazuo knew would put him in a bad light, adding on top of being Japanese, and thus decided not to disclose to the investigating sheriff at the time he was questioned. Kazuo and his wife Hatsue's fear come ... Written by
This film stands apart from the standard, sometimes clever, seldom memorable work that passes too often for Oscar fare nowadays. It is a film about life and death, love and betrayal, passion and pain, forgiveness and redemption. It is about the power of emotion to influence perception and memory. It is about justice and truth.
But that is not why you should see it; You should see it for the story. For this film is so finely crafted, and the story unfolds so naturally, that it is easy to appreciate for the simple compelling drama of the narrative. You care about the characters, you care about how the trial turns out, and you ache to know the truth.
The plot centers around a murder trial of a Japanese man charged in the death of a local fisherman, and on a white reporter covering the trial. It turns out the reporter had once been in love with a Japanese woman, now the accused man's wife. This romance was shattered as World War II broke out, and the young woman and her family were rounded up with other Japanese Americans, and interred in camps.
The story that unfolds is part "Casablanca", part "Amistad", part "To Kill a Mockingbird", yet wholly original and true to itself. It is at once a tender love story, a lesson in history, a murder mystery, and more.
The story of each of the main characters is told through flashbacks that reveal how each of them has suffered because of the war and how each has to overcome this suffering. Many of the most compelling images of the film occur in these flashbacks. Like real lasting memories, they are moments of deep emotional significance, and include many images which you will carry in your own mind long after you have left the theater.
If you look for them you may also find some symbolic or allegorical images in the film (the boat's mast resembles a cross; the fish could also be seen as a Christian symbol of sacrifice), but these elements are not heavy handed or forced, they occur naturally as important elements of the story which is set in a small fishing village on the Northwestern coast of the US in the years surrounding World War II.
While I have seen many reviewers comment on how beautifully filmed and well acted this film is, I have seen a few who have somehow failed to appreciate the significance of the story. My only caution on this account is, take care that you are not so blinded by beauty, that you fail to notice love.
In short, I found this to be a brilliant, deep, uplifting engrossing, and highly satisfying film experience.
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