Minamata seems to have ventured into cinemas and onto digital platforms
with very little fanfare which is a shame as it’s not only an enjoyable and
enthralling true story but Johnny Depp also gives one of his best
performances of the past few years, Depp’s is more restrained than normal
which shouldn’t come as aa surprise given the sobering subject matter of
Set in 1971, Depp plays W. Eugene Smith a famous, at the time, World War II
photojournalist. Having hit the bottle and having become something of a
recluse he was given a reprieve by Life magazine editor Robert Hayes (Bill
Nighy) who sent him to the Japanese coastal town of Minamata.
The town’s main employer happens to be a chemical plant run by the Chisso
Corporation. Allegations have come from the region that the company have
been polluting the water causing the local inhabitant’s bodies to be
ravaged by various illnesses believed to be caused by mercury poisoning.
When Smith arrives at the town he’s confronted by the terrible sight of
children with major deformity’s and life changing illnesses. Immersing
himself in the community and armed only with his camera Smith, despite the
best efforts of the chemical company who try to stop him, sets about
documenting the tragedy eventually bringing his images to the pages of Life
Very similar in tone to Erin Brockovich (2000) and Dark Water (2019)
Miamata is another heart-breaking account of how some companies can pay
scant regard to both the local environment and the people living in their
vicinity, with a fine performance from Depp, Minamata is worth seeking out.