Synopsis: In 1971, photographer W. Eugene Smith travels to Minamata, Japan, a coastal city ravaged by mercury poisoning. Ushered by an impassioned translator and encouraged by local villagers, Smith's powerful images expose decades of gross negligence.
Before I begin my review, a brief history. Chisso was a chemical factory in Minamata, Japan who was responsible for releasing large quantities of industrial wastewater that was contaminated with highly toxic methylmercury, which causes Minamata Disease (also known as Mercury poisoning). Minamata Disease attacks brain tissue and causes skeletomuscular deformities, lost the ability to perform motor functions and
many also lost significant amounts of vision, as well as hearing and speech. Sometime entirely. Severe cases presented with insanity, paralysis, coma and then death within weeks of the onset of symptoms. On record, 1,784 people, died because of the poisoning that occurred at Minamata. The poisoning occurred between 1932 and 1968.
Minamata is one of those movies that will leave a long lasting impression, and for me also a sadness, but not because of anything negative within the film, but because Minamata is based on true events, and you can’t help but emphasize with the people left effected by this terrible disease imposed on them by a greedy company, Chisso. This movie has a real grounding reality of mortality and humanity, both at it’s best and worst. Johnny Depp stars as the talented photographer W. Eugene Smith, who although is battling his own demons, travels to Minamata, on behalf of Time Magazine to internationally bring to light the atrocity happening at Minamata. With the help of Aileen, played beautifully by Minami, to interpret, he begins his journey, embracing the community and falling in love with Aileen in the process, but not without his setbacks.
Beyond the storyline (which is solid) the attention to detail is impressive. The captivating, beautiful scenery, the colder feel, imposed by color editing, flows beautifully into concept and at times is breath taking. The reconstruction of scene to recapture W. Eugene Smiths, famous images are true to form. Minamata is deserving of the recognition and awards it has received. Honestly this film, in my opinion should have received more.
Johnny Depp is an outstanding artist and brings such authenticity, passion, and dedication to his role as W. Eugene Smith. You felt his sadness, his pain, his whole being. He portrayed him, with such detail as he does all his characters. Johnny Depp is a true master of his art. The rest of the cast were nothing short of brilliant either. You felt their sorrow, their pain, their grief, anger, and fire to fight Chisso to seek some form of justice.
This film is a definite must watch, but be warned, Minamata will pull at your heart strings and stay with you for a long time. Trailer courtesy of ONE Media.
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Review was written by Sam Hain Winchester and is her honest view.
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