Picture Bride – Movie Review

Movies3I’m finally tackling the hundreds of movies I have in the My List streaming queue over at Netflix. I have this habit of putting on My List whatever movie happens to catch my eye or interest. Problem is even if I watched a movie a DAY from My List I’d not get through all the movies I’ve saved in even a year. More like a year and a half.

But I’m giving it a try.

The other day I seriously just closed my eyes and picked a movie at random from the list. This is the one I chose.

Picture Bride, released in 1995, was directed by Kayo Hatta from a screenplay she co-wrote with Mari Hatta. Kayo Hatta was an Asian American filmmaker, writer and community activist.  It appears that Picture Bride was her only feature film, which is unfortunate as it was a lovely movie.

Starring Youki Kudoh, Akira Takayama, Tamlyn Tomita and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, the movie also features a brief, but memorable appearance by Toshiro Mifune.

Picture Bride tells the story of 16 year Riyo who becomes the “picture bride” of a field hand on a sugar cane plantation in Hawaii. It’s set around 1918. Riyo has never met the man she’s going to marry. All she has is a picture of him and he of her. The marriage is arranged by Riyo’s aunt. When Riyo arrives in Hawaii, she discovers that her husband-to-be is far older than the picture he sent her. He had sent her a picture of his younger self. He is, in fact, in his forties and as Riyo angrily tells him, old enough to be her father.

Understandably, Riyo is not happen about what she sees as a deception on his part and wishes only to return to Japan. But she has no family there and, even if she did, it would cost more money than she can earn as a field hand and laundress.

The concept of “picture brides”  came about in the early 20th century when immigrant workers, mostly Japanese and Chinese, would engage matchmakers to help them find wives. Photographs of the prospective bride and groom were exchanged in order to facilitate these matches.

Picture Bride was a lovely, lyrical movie that did not rely upon big stars or special effects to tell a poignant story of love and longing. The movie was just long enough to tell it’s simple, quiet store. The characters were interesting, with none of them perfect. They were human beings with flaws and needs and desires, thwarted not only by circumstances but by their own self-doubt.

The scenery was gorgeous as was the cinematography and  whoever did the costumes did a wonderful job in research and design as it felt as if I were really in that time and place. Most of the movie is in Japanese with English subtitles and I was glad for that as I love the sound of the Japanese language.

There was one possible story line that was hinted at in the movie, but was never followed up on. That was my only quibble with the movie. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed it and at the end it left me with that warm, quiet feeling such movies usually evoke.

Popcorn rating – 4 Bags

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