Directed by: Lee Chang-Dong
Length: 139 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 28 November 2011
Cat No: FCD544
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Chang-dong Lee directs this Korean drama about a grandmother desperately trying to hold onto beauty and meaning in the face of... Read More
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.