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This is another great movie from Korea that shows how, once again, aiming for simplicity at its purest can be very rewarding.
A young woman gets fired from her job and needs to look for a new job, and a new apartment. She goes to the countryside to drop her bratty son at his grandmother's. The old woman is, or at least looks, older than old. She can't stand up right and her back remains almost always at a right angle from her legs. We also get the suspicion that she is somewhat retarded, and she does not speak. Throughout the summer, the grandmother will take care of the boy, and be unflinching in meeting the boy's mischiefs and brattiness repeatedly with acts of love.
What follows is a fairly standard story of how a young boy gets to mature a little, and gain respect for his elders. What sets this movie apart though is how detailed and profoundly simply the story is told. There is very little talking throughout the movie and you get to completely focus on the boy, and especially, the grandmother. Her acts of love are so simple, unpretentious, and yet so deep in the effect they have on the young boy, that they are bound to mark you.
The character of the grandmother reminded me of the character of "Dersu Uzala" in Kurosawa's movie. In both cases, you meet someone of very few words, deceivingly weak looks, but with a great inner strength and actions to match. I have always loved this structure of story telling, focusing on actions rather than words. I have recently written about "Once Upon A Time In The West" and Sergio Leone's movies, and how this structure is so appealing to me. I love movies written this way because i believe this structure is both much more complex to attain, while delivering the ultimate experience for the viewer.
In every other respect, the movie is really good. As i have said, the character of the grandmother is fantastic. The old actress is absolutely perfect (i have no idea who she is), and she is backed by wonderful material. The writing is wonderful, and the cinematigraphy and art direction are also tops. The music is not that powerful though, and several times in the movie, i wish the emotional impact could have been heightened by some powerful but subtle music. As for the overall direction, even though this is a short movie, clocking at 80mn, still feels too long, while at the same time, ending too early. I wish i had more time to understand the past of the grandmother. She was such an amazing character that i wish we had been given more details about her, and more details about her relationship with her daughter who obviously did not seem to have much respect for her mother. I know the movie focuses on the short-lived (one summer) relationship between a boy and his grandmother, but still, the character was so wonderful that the film overall left you hungry for more details.
This is a great simple and beautiful Korean movie that in many ways reminded me of Kurosawa's "Dersu Uzala". It does not have the epic proportions and depth of that movie, but there are several similarities. This is a short movie that will warm you. This is a perfect family movie too if your kids can take subtitles and a short trip to another culture.
- Laurent Hasson