Before there was Loving there was Sophie & The Rising Sun (well, sort of). Sophie & The Rising Sun is a romantic story and like Loving it is one that’s all about a bi-racial couple. The film is ultimately a beautiful but fictional love story where you can really sit back, relax and get lost in it all.
The film was written and directed by Maggie Greenwald. and is based on a novel by Augusta Trobaugh. It is set in the Deep South of America in Salty Creek, South Carolina in autumn 1941. It shows how a forbidden courtship and love unfolds in spite of the simple-mindedness of the local townspeople and their feelings of bigotry, racism and hate. These topics are ones that remain relevant and true to this day, making this film more than just another love story.
An Asian gentleman named Grover Ohta (Takashi Yamaguchi (The Last Samurai)) miraculously appears in Salty Creek one day. He has been left for dead and is all bloodied and bruised. The townspeople have never encountered a “foreigner” before and they assume this mysterious stranger is Chinese when he is actually an American man of Japanese descent. Ohta is slowly nursed back to health by a kind-hearted widow, Anne Morrison (Margo Martindale (August: Osage County)) and her new housekeeper Salome (Lorraine Toussaint (Orange Is The New Black)).
Mr Ohta proves to be a gentle, well-mannered soul who is also good in the garden. He slowly earns the trust of Anne and Salome. He also shares his love of art, flowers and music with a quirky and reclusive woman named Sophie (Julianne Nicholson). She’s a lady who lost her sweetheart during the First World War and one who now makes a living by selling the crabs she catches herself. Nicholson and Yamaguchi put in strong performances and they share a delicate but believable and palpable chemistry.
Salty Creek has its fair share of gossips and busybodies but the most irritating of them all is a woman named Ruth Jeffers (Diane Ladd). She’s the mother of a disfigured World War I veteran (played by an actual Iraq war vet (Bobby Henline). The bible-bashing Ruth meddles and tries to stop Sophie’s intense love affair with Ohta because the sanctimonious Ruth believes that Sophie’s behaviour isn’t proper. Things are further complicated when the Japanese become enemies of the U.S. after they bomb Pearl Harbour.
Sophie & The Rising Sun is a luscious period drama that envelopes you like a warm hug. This love story is a positively gorgeous one that is better than every Nicholas Sparks romance (with the exception of The Notebook). The intense love affair in Sophie & The Rising Sun is a wonderfully complex one that will ultimately appeal to your heart and your mind.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Sophie & The Rising Sun screens as part of the Gold Coast Film Festival, which runs until April 30th. For more information please visit: http://www.gcfilmfestival.com