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Directed by Lee Chang-Dong
Produced in 2010
Main Language - Korean with English subtitles
Da-wit Lee, Hira Kim, Jeong-hie Yun, Nae-sang Ahn, Yong-taek Kim
Anchored by a wonderful performance from Yun Jeong-hie as a woman who finds solace from life's troubles in writing, this Korean film is nothing less than a masterpiece, says Gareth Evans.
A sixty something widow, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and saddled with the care of a brooding teenage grandson and a recovering stroke victim, decides to enrol in a suburban poetry writing class... it doesn't sound like we're in the Hollywood pitch zone with South Korean director Lee Chang-Dong's masterful, humanist study of marginal lives given centrality and grace, by both brutality and the consolations of craft. But maybe we are... if this stunningly understated but emotionally overwhelming work is remade into English, then the promise of Academy Awards for the lead role will have the method actors queuing up to pen a verse as their character’s mind unravels.
For it’s the astonishing performance by Yoon Jung-Hee as Mija that anchors this exemplary exploration of complex and interwoven lives. As her grandson is implicated in a horrific incident involving a female classmate – which the school authorities and other parents attempt to hush up – she seeks to counter the appalling stress this evokes with the keen attention - to the natural world, to textures and light - that the poetry lessons encourage.
The delicacy, precision and subtlety of her performance is echoed in the film as a whole, whether in its gently beautiful cinematography, its wonderfully constructed narrative (at once open and compelling) and the empathy of its ensemble telling. The accumulation of detail that informs her closing, astonishing poem finds its parallel in the startling way that this heartbreaking tale is told. Until its final moments, like life, it could go any of a number of ways. Appearing effortless, it marries the drive of prose with the meditations of the lyric. That said, whatever its form, one thing is clear: it’s a masterpiece.
Gareth Evans on 18th October 2011
Author of 13 reviews
An understated Korean drama about a grandmother desperately trying to hold onto beauty and meaning in the face of deteriorating health and family problems, Poetry stars Jeong-hie Yun as Mija, a grandmother in her late 60s who is struggling to bring up her teenage grandson Wook on her own while also entering the early stages of Alzheimer's. When she discovers that her grandson is one of the perpetrators of a serious crime, Mija is at a loss how to react, and ends up enrolling in a poetry class in an attempt to find some strength, purpose and meaning in her life.
Winner of the Best Screenplay Award at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, Lee Chang-dong’s follow-up to his acclaimed Secret Sunshine is a masterful study of the subtle empowerment, and moral compass, of an older woman who refuses to give up on life.
Publisher: Arrow E1
Length: 139 mins
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 28th November 2011
Cat No: FCD544
- Audio commentary with director Lee Chang-dong and critic Kim Young-jin
- The Making of Poetry
- Onset with Lee Chang-dong and Yun Jeong-hie
- The Legendary Actress: Yun Jeong-hie
- Interview with Ahn Nae-sang
- Theatrical Trailers.