MINAMATA Review — A Riveting Film Proving Johnny Depp’s Star Power Once Again

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Film critic Leah Sydney’s Minamata review says the Johnny Depp starrer is an artistic homage to a man ahead of his time.

Minamata reviewJohnny Depp proves his star power once again in his latest film, Minamata, playing the legendary LIFE magazine photo journalist/celebrated war photographer W. Eugene Smith.  Directed by the talented Andrew Levitas and written by David K. Kessler, the film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival.

Smith’s immersive photographic style, achieved by literally living and breathing with his subjects, is highly regarded to this day.  He was a notoriously grizzled, self-destructive man who was estranged from his kids, had drinking problems and was deep in debt. The film chronicles him reluctantly accepting an endorsement deal from Fuji Film, which he found ironic since he never shot a color photo in his life.

But this deal turned out to be life changing for him, because through it he met a Japanese woman, played with both gentleness and toughness by Minami, who would later become his wife.  She told him about the mercury infested waters in this tiny, poor fishing village and asked for his help. Smith pitched the story to his beleaguered editor Robert Hayes (played wonderfully by Bill Nighy) and got the OK to go to Japan and see what was happening.

Smith was then shown the horrendous effects of the toxins, and even he, as a seasoned vet, was shocked by the numerous villagers with physical deformities. The culprit was the local chemical Chisso Company which dumped the toxic byproducts into the village water supply.

Smith was then on a dogged mission, exposing the greed and corruption of the corporate culture, not only locally but nationally as well.  Depp’s performance is one of endearing but surly earnestness.  He plays Smith’s dogged persistence perfectly, sneaking into labs and hospital wards where the patients were being secretly treated.

How Smith and the townspeople ultimately prevailed makes for a gripping, heartfelt movie experience.  Director Levitas captures the mood and directs Depp perfectly. Levitas is a painter and actor as well as a director, and this is his sophomore outing as a helmer (Lullaby was his first film). It definitely proves his directing artistic mettle.

DP Benoit Delhomme and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto contribute to this artistic homage to a man ahead of his time.  Minamata shows photo journalism at its best, with a stellar star turn from Depp.  Look for it soon wherever it lands.

Not Rated

1 Hour 55 Minutes

If this Minamata review whets your appetite, check Rotten Tomatoes of back here frequently to see where/when it’s available. As with most films now, its release has been postponed.

Film critic Leah Sydney’s Minamata review says the Johnny Depp starrer is an artistic homage to a man ahead of his time.

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Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning journalist, author and film/TV critic. She can be heard regularly on Cumulus radio stations throughout the US, and on BBC Radio.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Susanna on April 2, 2020 at 5:54 am

    Thank you for such an inspiring review on Minamata film. So excited to watch it in Russia as soon as possible.

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