Published Feb 01, 2000In following up his acclaimed Shine, director Scott Hicks has taken on a substantial challenge in trying to adapt best-selling novel Snow Falling On Cedars, a book that is layered in different times and cultures, and whose primary themes of memory and loss are not easy to bring to the big screen. The story involves the fictional West Coast island of San Piedro, where in the years before WW II, Anglo and Japanese Americans lived in uneasy peace. That peace was disrupted once, when Japanese Americans were interned in camps by their government during the War, and is now disrupted again, nine years after the war, when one Japanese man is accused of murdering a childhood Anglo friend in a land dispute. Covering the trial is journalist Ishmael Chambers (Ethan Hawke); he was taught by his father to be fair and tolerant, but his own interest in the trial has a personal element as well - his childhood love Hatsue (Youki Kudoh), kept from him because of their cultural differences, is now married to the accused. Chambers is torn between his own self-righteous indignation at the suffering that prejudice inflicted upon him, and the much harsher reality Hatsue and her husband now face. The film takes a highly stylised approach to exploring the history of their relationship, and how the community deals with its current crisis, which can make the film frustrating at times - it leans more towards atmospheric fogginess than narrative straightforwardness. It's not fatal, and if you can cut it that slack, Snow Falling On Cedars is a beautiful, if occasionally overly sentimental film.