The sugar trade with the US brought many Japanese labourers to the fields of Hawaii from the later part of the 19th century on. The most they could look forward to was saving enough for a mail-order wife from back home, and suitable payment brought thousands of single young 'picture brides' to the new frontier. The first feature of Hawaiian-born Kayo Hatta is drawn from an amalgam of real-life testimony and follows the fortunes of Riyo (Kudoh from Mystery Train), who arrives in Honolulu in 1918 to find that her husband Matsuji (Takayama) is 20 years older than his photo, and that she faces a married life dominated by toil on the plantation. We're left in no doubt as to the fortitude of these women or the burden placed on their menfolk, yet the film-makers' determination to see the best in everyone feels forced. Tamlyn Tomita is sound as the heroine's supportive best friend and there's a noteworthy cameo from Mifune as a silent-cinema narrator, but a subplot about industrial agitation is left unresolved and a sidestep into the supernatural misfires.
Cast and crew
Kayo Hatta, Mari Hatta