The setting is a North Pacific island, nine years after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent internment of the island's Japanese-American inhabitants. Restored to an uneasy harmony after the war, the Anglo/Japanese community is polarised once again when a fisherman dies mysteriously and his Japanese childhood friend is charged with murder. The narrative of David Guterson's bestseller is propelled by the characters' memories. While this works well on the page, it doesn't immediately lend itself to cinema, with numerous flashbacks filling in the backstory. The trial is the framework on which the film is hung, inextricably linking the lives of each participant. Local reporter Ishmael Chambers (Hawke) watches from the press gallery, his impartiality threatened by his obsession with the defendant's wife, childhood sweetheart Hatsue (Youki). Meanwhile, anti-Japanese sentiment is rife in some sectors of the population, a rather clumsily drawn bunch of pantomime baddies. As the case progresses it seems to be not the man but his nationality that's on trial. The film may be visually powerful, but no amount of evocative shots can redeem this turgid courtroom drama.