Picture Bride Review

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A young girl (Kudoh) arrives in Hawaii to marry a man whose photo has made a strong impression on her. Problem is, the photo she saw was 20 years old...


Director Hatta has obviously lavished considerable care on her directorial debut and exercised a great deal of ingenuity to give this period drama a sense of time and place without betraying the tightness of the budget. However, unfortunately, this is one of those heartfelt pictures that fails so utterly to convey the maker's passion for the subject that you are left feeling alternately ignorant and bored.

Set in 1918, the film recalls the old custom of using photographs to arrange marriages between Japanese workers in Hawaii and girls back home. Kudoh plays a 16 year-old who is tricked into emigrating by Takayama, who has sent her a picture taken during his long-lost youth. Refusing to consummate the union, she begins looking for ways to pay for her return journey, with the help of her sole friend (Tomita).

Echoes of The Color Purple and The Joy Luck Club abound, but we are spared the domestic violence that so many filmmakers fall back on to reinforce the heroine's misery. Hatta has nothing new to say about loveless marriage or the hardships facing women keeping house after a day in the fields. But there's a suspicion that, with a little pruning and a touch more pace, this could be much more involving.

The film's major coup is securing the services of Mifune to play a travelling cinema showman, but even as cameos go, his appearance is brief and he makes little impact, apart from a knowing gag about his legendary status as a screen samurai.

A well-intentioned picture that fails to pass on the director's passion to the viewer.