Smoke Signals Movie Review Summary

Actors: Adam Beach, Evan Adams, Gary Farmer, Irene Bedard

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Smoke Signals

In the late 1990s, handsome and brooding Victor Joseph (Beach) and nerdy Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Adams) are best buddies on the Coeur d'Alene (Idaho) reservation. Both were saved from a burning house by Victor's father Arnold as children in 1976, but Arnold succumbed to alcohol and unemployment, and eventually deserted the family. Now Victor, who hasn't seen Arnold in at least 10 years, gets word his father has died in the Southwest. The two buddies hit the road to locate the body and bring it home. This warm, offbeat 1998 comedy, was the first feature film written, directed, and co-produced by Native Americans. It's a quiet, lovely low-budget movie.
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The review of this Movie prepared by David Loftus

“Smoke Signals” is Chris Eyre's 1998 directorial debut. Like Eyre's subsequent film “Skins,” it is written, directed and acted entirely by Native Americans, smashing stereotypes with humor, pathos and real-life dilemmas.

It's July 4, 1976, the “white man's Independence Day” on the Coeur D'Alene (Idaho) Indian rez. Familyman Joseph Andrew (Farmer) does the “one good thing in his life,” catching the infant Thomas Builds-The-Fire (Adams) as he is thrown from a burning house. We later learn that Joseph ran back in to save his own son Victor (Beach). Over the years, Joseph blames himself for not doing more and lives with guilt, drinks, and is generally a bad father until he abandons his family altogether. When we learn he has died in Arizona, Victor must go claim his father's things. But since gabby Thomas has the bus fare and has never been off the rez, he insists on accompanying Victor. Thus begins a road movie with two dissimilar young Indian men having only in common that their lives were saved by the same man.

Heading for Phoenix, we sense some sarcastic resentment among the Indians, (“got your passports? The United States is as foreign as it gets.)” On the bus, we learn much from imaginative storyteller Thomas who initiates riotous exchanges with Victor when he instructs him to “look like you just killed a buffalo.” –“But our tribe were fisherman.” “–Fishermen!? Well this ain't ‘Dances With Salmon.'”

When the pair arrives in Phoenix we meet Joseph's lover, Suzy, who insists she knew Joseph better than anyone, including the truth about the July 4th fire, as many of Thomas' uncertainties suddenly become clear. Back home, Thomas presents Victor a gift for everything he's helped him see; a personal gift which will help him ponder, “how do we forgive our fathers?”

The review of this Movie prepared by Angry Jim Magin

Script Analysis of Smoke Signals

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Plot & Themes

Time/era of movie:    -   1980's-1999    -   2000's+ (present) Family, loving    -   Yes Special relationship with    -   father Road trip    -   Yes Ethnic/Regional/Gender story?    -   Yes Ethnic/region/relig    -   American Indian

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Profession/status:    -   unemployed Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   American Indian


United States    -   Yes The US:    -   West    -   Pacific NW    -   Southwest Desert?    -   Yes City?    -   Yes City:    -   dirty, grimy (like New York) Misc setting    -   moving train    -   school    -   bar

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment Any profanity?    -   Occasional swearing If lots of song/dance...    -   lot of singing If this is a kid's movie...    -   Ages 10-15 Is this movie based on a    -   book

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