W. Eugene Smith is well known for his black and white photography at Life Magazine. In the past, he has seen many unspeakable things in the aftermath of war. In the present day, W. Eugene Smith is sick of working for Life Magazine and walks away to spend his remaining days at home taking photographs of those walking by and drinking heavily.
Soon, he is approached by a Japanese woman named Aileen (Minami), who takes him out for the evening and reveals her true purpose. Aileen is seeking help from W. Eugene Smith, asking him to come to Japan to photograph and document the horrifying effects of mercury poisoning in Minamata. At first, he declines, but while resting on the same evening, he changes his heart. The next day, he revisits his boss at Life Magazine, who gives his consent and support to pursue the story as, after all, if he is successful, his work could save many lives.
For those who are not aware, Minamata is based on a true story. The story itself has moments that I found pretty fascinating and, at the same time, heartbreaking. Once the film introduced W. Eugene Smith, I was invested, wanting to know if this one man would make a difference in Japan. For the most part, the film’s pacing is brilliant, with only a few scenes that felt slightly questionable.
The most significant praise point of this film naturally has to go to the stunning work of Johnny Depp. He is incredible playing W. Eugene Smith. Everything from the way he speaks and walks- it’s a complete transformation for the actor. His work here felt rather refreshing as it’s been some time since the actor has delivered such a memorable role.
The visuals, for the most part, are also highly pleasing. Several moments relating to the filming style, like Depp’s performance, felt fresh and creative. The audio track is quite lovely, but in a few early scenes involving Depp’s character, when he’s either quite drunk or somewhat exhausted, it can be slightly challenging to understand what he’s saying, primarily because he enjoys mumbling. Perhaps this was done on purpose? But naturally, any issues I have with this film are simply minor and are all highly forgivable.
Overall, Minamata reveals an incredible and touching true story. Not only did I personally enjoy the film’s plot and the journey it takes its viewers on, but I also fell in love with the work of Johnny Depp. He delivered a tremendous performance, which felt highly refreshing. Those who enjoy watching war stories or stories based on actual events will undoubtedly find this film highly pleasing and unforgettable.