Snow Falling on Cedars

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Snow Falling on Cedars Movie Poster Image
Good movie for adults and older teens.
  • PG-13
  • 2000
  • 127 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages
Violence

Graphic amputation scene, battle scenes, autopsy, scenes of alleged murder.

Sex

Several inexplicit but intimate scenes of married sex.

Language

One strong word, several milder terms.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there are some battle scenes and a graphic amputation, and some inexplicit but intimate scenes of married couples having sex and teenagers making out.

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What's the story?

Late one night, in 1950 Washington state, a Caucasian fisherman named Carl Heine drowned, and circumstantial evidence indicates that he might have been murdered. The last person to see him was a Japanese fisherman, Kazuo Miyamoto, who had a motive -- Heine owned land that would have belonged to Miyamoto's family if not for the Japanese internment during World War II.

Is it any good?

There has never been a movie more literally true to its title -- SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS is indeed a movie with many long, loving scenes of snow falling on cedars. There are also scenes of raindrops plopping in puddles and autumn leaves blowing and children running on the beach. In between, there is a story, impressionistically told, about a murder trial.

As journalist Ishmael Chambers (Ethan Hawke) sits in the balcony of the courtroom taking notes, the background is revealed in snippets and images: Ishmael and Miyamoto's wife, Hatsue, devoted to each other as children and teenagers. Ishmael's father, losing subscribers and advertisers because of his editorials against racism. Heine's father, promising Miyamoto's father that he would not foreclose while they were in the interment camp. Heine's mother, foreclosing after her husband died. Hatsue's mother, telling her to stay away from white boys. Ishmael, unable to stop thinking about Hatsue.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how several characters in the movie hesitate before acting and the consequences of the delays and what factors led them to decide the way they do. Families could also talk about this style of story-telling. Is it supposed to represent the internal thoughts of the characters or is there some sort of narrator putting together the story like a jigsaw puzzle? And families could also talk about the Japanese internment, one of the most shameful episodes in this country's history, and about the half-century effort it took to get an apology and a small payment for damages.

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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