197 user 101 critic

Snow Falling on Cedars (1999)

A Japanese-American fisherman is accused of killing his neighbor at sea. In the 1950s, race figures into the trial. So does reporter Ishmael.


Scott Hicks


David Guterson (novel), Ronald Bass (screenplay) (as Ron Bass) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Ethan Hawke ... Ishmael Chambers
Yûki Kudô ... Hatsue Miyamoto (as Youki Kudoh)
Reeve Carney ... Young Ishmael Chambers
Anne Suzuki ... Young Hatsue Imada
Rick Yune ... Kazuo Miyamoto
Max von Sydow ... Nels Gudmundsson (as Max Von Sydow)
James Rebhorn ... Alvin Hooks
James Cromwell ... Judge Fielding
Richard Jenkins ... Sheriff Art Moran
Arija Bareikis ... Susan Marie Heine
Eric Thal ... Carl Heine Jr.
Celia Weston ... Etta Heine
Daniel von Bargen ... Carl Heine Sr. (as Daniel Von Bargen)
Akira Takayama Akira Takayama ... Hisao Imada
Ako ... Fujiko Imada


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 Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


First loves last. Forever. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for disturbing images, sensuality and brief strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Of the film, to production designer Jeannine Oppewall, "it shows the arbitrary and capricious nature of life - its randomness - something very difficult for us humans to accept. We all too often resort to a court of law because we need someone to blame." See more »


A Coast Guard form, reporting weather and shipping messages, in the lighthouse scene lists the Coast Guard as part of the Department of Transportation, which was created in 1960. The Coast Guard was under the Department of the Treasury until 1967. See more »


Nels Gudmundsson: It takes a rare thing, a turning point, to free oneself from any obsession. Be it prejudice or hate, or, even love.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Jan Rubes and Sheila Moore are on the credits despite their scenes being deleted. See more »


Referenced in Fun with Dick and Jane (2005) See more »


Washington Post
Written by John Philip Sousa
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User Reviews

A murder-mystery / love story set against the backdrop of a small island community in post-WWII north western United States.
29 March 2006 | by allankhSee all my reviews

This movie is based on the book of the same name by author David Guterson. It is *highly* recommended to read the book before watching this movie as, in the opinion of this reviewer, the movie is an unintelligible mess that leaves out vitally important material to the understanding of the plot.

While it is not always possible to retain the feeling and spirit of a work of fiction through the screenplay writing process, I believe that this is one case in which the screen writers failed to capture the essence of the characters and what the author was trying to impart, despite the fact that Mr. Guterson was involved in the process.

Even though the movie departs from book in several vital area's that drastically change the symbology and moral of the story, the cinematography in this movie is splendid; it captures a feeling of 1950's Americana in very convincing fashion and by itself, this imagery brings much of the feeling of time home to the viewer in a real and emotionally dramatic sense.

It is really too bad that more was not done to preserve the beautiful symbology of the book and, though it must be a difficult task, that the essence of the characters was not more carefully interpretted in a true-to-the-book fashion. The director comments that he was not attempting a very literal translation, and in this I think he makes a rather grave mistake and ends up doing both the movie and the story a disservice.

Again, I highly recommend reading the book before watching this movie, even though it might take away from your appreciation of the cinematography as you struggle to reconcile the directors choices with the authors obvious intended meaning.

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English | Japanese | German

Release Date:

7 January 2000 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Snow Falling on Cedars See more »

Filming Locations:

Cathlamet, Washington, USA See more »


Box Office


$35,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$32,135, 26 December 1999

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS



Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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