Sophie and the Rising Sun
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (13th April 2017).
The Film

“Sophie and the Rising Sun” (2016)

In the Autumn of 1941, a mysteriously injured and beaten Asian man appears in the small South Carolina town of Salty Creek. In no condition to walk or take care of himself, he is nursed by the widow Anne Morrison (played by Margo Martindale) until he has the strength to be on his way to wherever he was going. The injured man Ohta (played by Takashi Yamaguchi) is introduced to Sophie (played by Julianne Nicholson) - a quiet girl who keeps mostly to herself but has a love for painting, which is something that Ohta has a deep love for as well. But in a town which was segregated, rumors of Sophie and Ohta seeing each other starts causing trouble within the community. And to set things even worse, when the news reports that the Japanese military bombs Pearl Harbor, the racial divide gets even tenser which seriously affects Ohta and Sophie’s relationship…

Based on the 2001 novel written by Augusta Trobaugh, the filmed adaptation of “Sophie and the Rising Sun” is basically the same story but told in a very different perspective from the book. While the book was told through the eyes of Anne Morrison, the film is seen through the eyes of Anne, Sophie, and Ohta (or Oto as he is called in the novel) creating multiple viewpoints. Although the novel and film are both marketed as love stories, it is not a love story in the most common sense but a story of wanting a form of love but in a time when segregation and racism prevented basic desires. And rather than play on interracial list, the story is more of the characters confronting the sense of guilt and not pursuing their true feelings. Scenes of Ohta and Sophie walking along the river or the dinner scene of Ohta eating crab cakes for the first time and listening to music - the audience may expect a first kiss or a gesture of holding hands, but they are not to be as their heads are stronger than their hearts, which sadly is a negative point due to the mindset of the people in that time and place. Sophie is not a character that believes in racial segregation as shown through her flashbacks getting in trouble for playing with a black friend, and how she sees Ohta as a person and not just a “Chinaman” as the townsfolk call him. Anne is in a slightly progressive yet conservative position, who is still a churchgoer yet has a genuine heart for nursing Ohta back to health. She does not have a problem with people of other “color” as long as they have mutual respect. That does for Ohta as well as her new black housemaid Salome Whitmore (played by Lorraine Toussaint).

“Sophie and the Rising Sun” does have its good points but there are some negatives to be said. As emotional content is the main focus for a love story, the relationship between Sophie and Ohta didn’t seem to have a real spark. True that they had to seriously restrain themselves for the most part, it didn’t seem like Ohta had a true interest in her nor did she in him. It almost seemed like the two outsiders found a common bond rather than a natural attraction. Minor characters like the nosy Ms. Jeffers (played by Dianne Ladd) or the Sheriff (played by Joel Murray
“Sophie and the Rising Sun” was adapted for the screen and directed by
Maggie Greenwald, and independently produced. It premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival in January and later given a limited cinema release in America in January 2017. The film has its good moments but overall it is a slightly average piece that does not go far above or beyond as it could have.

Note this is a region 0 NTSC DVD which can be played on any DVD or Blu-ray player worldwide

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement in the NTSC format. As expected from a new film, the transfer itself is quite good with no issues or damage with a sharp picture. As stated before, the film has a quite dull color palate so there are no serious issues with color reproduction or issues with color bleeding. The biggest issue is not a transfer fault but a seriously bad CGI rendering shot that occurs near the end of the film, which was pretty embarrassing looking even if it was a small budget film.

The runtime of the film is 104:44.













Audio

English Dolby Digital 5.1
While mostly a talky film, the dialogue is entirely centered while the surrounding speakers are used for the very minor music cues and sound effects. Dialogue is always easy to understand and there are no issues of dropouts or audio errors in the transfer. It’s not a track to give the speakers a workout but gets the job done.

There are no subtitles offered on the disc.

Extras

Sadly there are no extras. No interviews or featurettes, not even a trailer for the film on the disc. Once the disc starts, the movie plays and when the movie ends, the disc stops. As barebones as it gets.

Packaging

The rear cover lists that the runtime of the film is 116 minutes but this is incorrect as it runs 104:44. The US DVD by Monterey Video has a runtime of 105 minutes which is about the same as the Australian disc, yet the IMDB page lists a 116 minute runtime - the same as the back of the case. The Sundance website also lists 116 minutes. Was the original cut a longer 116 minutes which was withered down to 105? I cannot say for certain but it is a possibility.

Overall

“Sophie and the Rising Sun” is enjoyable yet not a very memorable piece of filmmaking. It’s no “Come See the Paradise” or “Bridge to the Sun” but has its moments of goodness here and there with a good cast of actors on screen. The Umbrella Entertainment DVD presents good audio and video but with no supplements it is a missed opportunity.

The Film: C+ Video: B Audio: B Extras: F- Overall: C

 


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