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Overall Rating
4.46

Awesome74.58%
Worth A Look: 13.56%
Average: 1.69%
Pretty Bad: 3.39%
Total Crap: 6.78%

3 reviews, 41 user ratings


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Smoke Signals
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by Brian McKay

"Strong signals"
5 stars

This feature debut of Native American director Chris Eyre is a powerful coming-of-age tale that earned distinction for being one of the few films about contemporary Native Americans actually made by Native Americans for Native Americans. Thankfully, even a paleface like me can come along for and enjoy the ride (and living in the foggy climes of San Francisco has rendered more than my face pale, of late).

Victor Joseph (Adam Beach) is a young man who has grown up on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation. A good looking guy who is proud of his long hair and basketball skills, he struggles with the inner demon of being brought up by alcoholic parents and later abandoned by his father, Arnold Joseph (Gary Farmer), leaving Victor's now-late mother, Arlene (Tantoo Cardinal), with the task of rearing him.

His friend, Thomas Builds-a-Fire (Evan Adams) is the local reservation geek. With his skinny frame and large glasses, he looks like the kind of guy who was in the high school marching band and played Dungeons and Dragons on Saturday nights. The longsuffering Victor tries to teach Thomas how to “act more like a real Indian” and not be such a geek, but to little avail.

When Victor receives word that his father is dead, he must take a long bus journey to claim Arnold’s ashes. Thomas accompanies him on his journey, and although he serves as the comedic sidekick and general source of annoyance, Thomas’s geekness belies a quiet and profound introspection. In many ways, Thomas is a spiritual touchstone for the conflicted Victor.

When they arrive at the place of Arnold’s death, they make the acquaintence of Susie Song (the absolutely mesmerizing Irene Bedard), a young woman who became friends with Arnold before he died. Through her, Victor begins to learn about the man his father had become, and a side of man he never knew.

Smoke Signals is a powerful film with engrossing themes of the strength of family ties and the deeply spiritual nature of a fascinating but troubled people. Expect fantastic performances from the three leads - especially Adam Beach (Windtalkers), who has been enjoyable to watch in many projects since this film, but who has yet to reproduce the caliber of performance he gives here. And did I mention the beautiful Irene Bedard? Her portrayal of Susie provides a comely and vital conduit through which Victor can reconcile with his father’s memory. Adams, Farmer, and Cardinal are also wonderful, and Tom Skerritt pops in as a skeptical but ultimately sympathetic Sheriff.

We can thank SMOKE SIGNALS for many things, including a welcome bolster to Beach’s career, as well as firmly cementing Eyre in the league of talented independent directors on the rise - although I haven’t seen nearly enough of Bedard since this film (but really, how could one ever see “enough” of her?). Make it a point to not miss these signals

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=170&reviewer=258
originally posted: 05/24/03 07:14:08
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User Comments

3/15/14 Kendra A very refreshing movie when compaired to normal protayal of Native Americans. I adore it. 5 stars
2/08/13 Tommy Boy Loved the music, especially song during the credits at the end. Loved Irene Bedard! 5 stars
1/06/13 Kathy I loved this movie and the charactors portrayed. Definitely worth 5 *****! 5 stars
6/01/10 brian Quite a keeper, innit? 5 stars
3/07/10 darec People who gave it one star are too stupid to understand it 4 stars
12/18/09 Brian "Billabo" Victor! Hey Victor! I really liked this movie, didn't you, Victor! It was really great. 5 stars
7/26/09 the dork knight Blessedly free of cliches (white man raised by indians). A touching road movie 5 stars
4/26/09 Darlene Funny, poignant, out of the ordinary, good enough for repeated viewings 5 stars
11/08/07 Nigger I hat this movie 2 stars
6/11/07 DD McKenzie Thomas (Evan Adams) was terrific with the dialogue. Loved his speech (fathers) at the end. 5 stars
10/14/06 daren Movie blows... 1 stars
3/22/06 ary it's just the fisrt film written, directed, produced and acted by native americans! 5 stars
11/09/05 mysh Very nice film, great music 5 stars
11/01/05 jasmine windom absolutely great movie, the song in the end while credits are rolling is the best song. 5 stars
10/06/05 Susan This movie was fantastic! It was funny and sweet and it had a good ending. I loved Thomas! 5 stars
10/03/05 Herpino who the fuck would actually spend money to watch this, or even make this shit 1 stars
6/03/05 Michelle This was a great movie about life on the rez. 4 stars
4/12/05 Louann Debassige Great cinematography, realistic portrayal of Native American reserves and witty humor! 4 stars
3/08/05 max great 5 stars
12/08/04 ¨PAUL NASH IT WAS AN IMPORTANT MOMENT IN MY LIFE 5 stars
11/14/04 Amy this is a wonderful film for all to see 5 stars
10/30/04 Jay Bible A good movie to watch if you can relate to what is going on. 4 stars
12/09/03 Samuel A very good film!! 4 stars
11/17/03 Parker It is a good film not only on forgiving but on teaching and loving 4 stars
9/27/03 Suzanne Abel one of the best films ever--wrenching and hilarious 5 stars
9/23/03 Kyle WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS BULLSHIT?! 1 stars
9/16/03 jess adam is awesome 5 stars
9/15/03 carol very good 5 stars
7/24/03 Sully I played for the Mohawks in little league....we sucked too..... 1 stars
7/02/03 Irene Otton Watch it with your friends. We had a great time watching it. 5 stars
11/29/02 mr. Pink A big dissapointment. Alexie deserved a better director for his great story. 2 stars
11/23/01 J.E I now know to good movies that are cool Smoke Signals (this movie) and Joe Dirt 5 stars
6/27/01 0tto Nonpretentious yet refined and subtle (It didn't suck the way most movies do) 5 stars
4/25/01 Spetters Stays true in spirit to Sherman Alexie´s stories,but a better director would´ve been great 3 stars
10/10/00 Brian Moore Finally, without the inevitable europeanization tainting cultural expression 5 stars
8/09/00 jon graves light and funny, try it out 4 stars
4/20/00 D This film had humor and reference to historical conflicts as well. It was well made. 5 stars
11/22/99 JJ A bit heavy handed with the indian/white america conflict--but a great comming of age flick 4 stars
3/16/99 haden Thank god this film got made. Yes, Native Americans are real people too 5 stars
1/31/99 MissDelicateFlower No intellectual giant, but well done. 5 stars
11/03/98 grunter hey victor . . . if hllywd had brains, this would be a '98 best-picture contender. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  16-Jan-1998 (PG-13)
  DVD: 01-Mar-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Chris Eyre

Written by
  Sherman Alexie

Cast
  Adam Beach
  Evan Adams
  Irene Bedard
  Gary Farmer
  Tantoo Cardinal
  Cody Lightning



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