Smoke Signals

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Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Friday 26th June 1998

Distributed by: Miramax Films

Production compaines: ShadowCatcher Entertainment, Miramax Films

Reviews 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Fresh: 25 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew


Producer: , Scott M. Rosenfelt

Starring: as Arnold Joseph, as Arlene Joseph, as Young Victor Joseph, as Young Thomas Builds-the-Fire, Monique Mojica as Grandma Builds-the-Fire, John Trudell as Randy Peone

Smoke Signals Review

To those who think the world of watching movies as a job all fun and games, remember that it is a chore as well. You are forced to sit through numerous bad movies, forced to lose faith slowly and surely in the film industry until it is almost gone. The cynicism you harbor eats you up inside until you have nothing left but your own cruel intentions towards an industry that you have no affinity left for.

Then, as hope has dwindled to an almost non-existent point, you sit back and watch a film like Smoke Signals. Smoke Signals is one of those rare movies that you never hear a bad word about. It is one of those films that comes out of nowhere, has no big names or bad lines, and is a completely original story... in short, the main things most movies lack.

Rarely does a film touch you so much as Smoke Signals can, nor does it make you smile or cry like this immensely powerful film can do.

Set on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation in Idaho, Smoke Signals concerns Victor Joseph (Adam Beach as an adult, Cody Lightning as a child) and Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams as an adult, Simon Baker as a child), both, according to Sherman Alexie, "children born of fire." By this it is meant that the two of them were both almost killed in the same fire that took Thomas' parents 22 years ago on the Fourth of July. Arnold Joseph (Gary Farmer) saved Thomas by catching him in his arms when he was thrown out of the window by his parents in order to save him from the holocaust.

Arnold Joseph, haunted by his own guilt for his abusive treatment of his family and a secret that tears him apart inside, left for Phoenix when Thomas and Victor were only 12, and, ten years later, the two of them must go retrieve his ashes from his next door neighbor Suzy Song (Irene Bedard).

The story sounds highly simplistic, and it is. It also serves to be a perfect method in which to examine the troubled relationships between fathers and sons, and seeks to find a definition of a good man.

As much as I talk of myself in my reviews, writing this it strikes me how very little I tell you in them. I opt not to speak of my own relationships with others, nor my own personal demons and hauntings. Faced with Smoke Signals, I would love to recommend the film more to you but cannot do so without entering into how the film is made personal for me.

That feeling that the film is personal is universal with Smoke Signals, which means different things to different people but is always a powerful and personal story to everyone. The film is strictly word-of-mouth, recommended by one friend to another, and there is a reason for that. Smoke Signals is so intensely personal that it is difficult to get into why it is such a perfect movie without drifting into one's own past... something which most people will only do with people they trust.

What can be told without getting too personal is that, whatever walls you may have built up over the course of your life, Smoke Signals contains with it the raw power to break them with a thought. It is a film that you will enjoy, whether or not you set out to enjoy it.


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Smoke Signals Rating

" Excellent "