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Directed by: Lee Chang-Dong

Produced: 2010

DVD Details

Certificate: 12

Length: 139 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 28 November 2011

Cat No: FCD544

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Poetry

Cast: Nae-sang Ahn , Jeong-hie Yun , Hira Kim , Da-wit Lee , Yong-taek Kim

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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

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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 deteriorating health and family problems. Jeong-hie Yun stars as Mija, a grandmother in her late 60s who is struggling to bring up her teenage grandson Wook (Da-wit Lee) 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.

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.

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