The movie Picture Bride is a special one. The movie is based on true stories that are set at the beginning of the twentieth century. In those years a new phenomenon bloomed. Instead of women and men meeting in real life, matchmakers and families used photographs to form couples in other parts of the country or even other countries oversea. Between 1907 and 1924 a baffling 20.000 young Japanese and Korean women went to Hawaii to meet their future husband, whom they only knew from letters and/or pictures. They were known as ‘picture brides’.
Picture Bride follows a young woman named Riyo. She becomes the picture bride of an older man named Matsuji, who works at a sugarcane plantation in Hawaii. She received a picture of him in which he was a lot younger. As an excuse, Matsuji says he didn’t have a more recent photograph. She marries him against her will and of course refuses every kind of physical contact with her new husband. Because Riyo is a woman from the city and isn’t used to hard physical labour, she’s being ridiculed by others. Another picture bride, Kana, then teaches Riyo how the work at the plantation is done. Kana gets beaten by her husband a lot and takes her baby to the fields to hide when something like that happens and the baby won’t stop crying. Riyo meets her there, after fleeing there herself when she got into an argument with Matsuji. She lays her trust in Kana after spending the night with her. Because the marriages aren’t based on love, the task of creating love is difficult and is even more difficult under harsh conditions.
The situation on the plantation and at home is far from pleasant and I wouldn’t want to walk in Riyo’s or any other picture bride’s shoes. The work on the plantation is way too hard and most of them also don’t have a nice home to return to at the end of the day. Riyo wants to go back to Japan, but she has a long road ahead of her with a daily wage of only 65 cents. Since the movie takes place in Hawaii there are also Americans who are the bosses of the Japanese workers. The picture brides who have worked there for a couple of years also speak English. Riyo learned English when she was in Japan. The alternation between English and Japanese is really fun to hear and makes the movie quite a bit more unique than other Japanese movies. The camerawork and montage is also fantastic for an older movie. The shots are beautiful and the whole movie is really well put together. The acting compliments that even more. The actors are each really good, which makes watching the movie even more enjoyable.
If you want to know if it ends well for Riyo and if she gets her happy ending, I strongly suggest watching this movie!
Date of release: January 1995
Director: Kayo Hatta