This is a lovely film, about the shameful period in US history when they forced US citizens of Japanese extraction to live in internment camps. It’s something I didn’t know much about at all, and where I expected a mediocre film, I felt I got a charming and instructive story about what might have been a brief part of American history, but so very traumatic for those involved.
In 1942 four boys discover an injured Japanese submariner on the beach where they live in California. They are scared, and don’t know whether to kill him or report him or help him. One of the boys, Duke, has a brother in the war, another is a Japanese American and about to be interned.
It’s both funny and touching as you see their fear and the excitement, and the frenzy whipped up in their little town when the FBI arrive. Duke’s parents are normal upright people who stand up for their Japanese neighbours, and worry about their soldier son as well as the father working double shifts because there is a war on. So different from other war time films where we are made to believe that the American way of life never changed because they didn’t fight ‘at home.’
Things turn bad, as they have to, but the film ends on a hopeful note.
For a fairly unknown little film, there were some good performances from all involved, including Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon as Duke’s parents, and especially from Pat Morita as their elderly Japanese neighbour. I could watch this again. It was cute, but the seriousness of the politics counterbalance this perfectly.