I really enjoyed watching this film. First off the picture is simply beautiful. Just beautiful. Robert Richardson without a doubt stands alone as the greatest cinematographer of our time. The dark shadows, the fog, the beautiful wintery snow, the slow motions, the deep photography is really captivating. As for the story, well that seems to be the problem..."Snow Falling On Cedars" is about two stories. One it is about the murder of a fisherman that affects a community (reminiscent to Atom Egoyan's "The Sweet Hereafter") and two it is about a simple love story between a Japanese American girl and a Caucasian boy.
One of the problems I think a lot of had while watching this picture is through the editing. Hank Corwin is my fav film editor and here he cuts the story back and fourth through flashbacks giving it a non-linear vibe. It can all be very confusing because everything becomes fractured, things aren't all quite clear and one has to sometimes double back to make sure they have an understanding of the plot. I also felt that the love story between Ishmael Chambers (Ethan Hawke) and Hatsue Miyamoto (Youki Kudoh) felt flat and somewhat boring. I wanted to be close to these characters more then anything, particularly Rick Yune's character since we should be looking at his POV and is a crucial character to the plot. I also felt the picture should have concentrated more on the Japanese community and really getting a sense of their struggles of prejudice/discrimination during those times.
Overall if one doesn't mind what the picture is about and wants to see gorgeous photography and a balletic approach, well then this one's for you. If you have a strong dislike for slow moving plots/lacking characters then look elsewhere. Me personally, this film is a keeper.