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Time Out says
Tue Jul 26 2011At its core, this formidable, delicately meandering ‘women’s picture’ from South Korean director Lee Chang-dong poses two fundamental questions: where does creative inspiration derive from? And is it possible to create beautiful art while living a life beset by tragedy and inner torment? Korean actress Yun Jeong-hie came out of retirement to play Mija, a lonely, impoverished grandmother who enrols in a poetry writing course to assuage the daily traumas of caring for her delinquent grandson and the gradual onset of Alzheimer’s. A stubbornly cheerful soul who has to summon great courage to do something that may offend the various people she comes in contact with, Mija undergoes a profound crisis when she discovers her grandson and his grubby chums have committed an unspeakable act at school and she must stump up cash to hush-up the victim’s mother.
True to the spirit of the title, writer-director Lee organises the sprawling mess of Mija’s personal life with the control and grace of a master, each digression and seemingly arbitrary encounter all building upon his elderly protagonist’s spiralling sense of distress. So relaxed is the pacing, you suspect certain segments would not have worked were it not for Yun’s exhilarating, meticulous central performance. But while Yun’s restrained presence keeps you locked into the drama, the same cannot be said for the male supporting cast, the majority of whom are unambiguously ‘bad’ characters who treat Mija as an aged buffoon. As with Chekhov’s theory of the gun, anyone who starts a film going to poetry classes is eventually going to come up with a poem. The one Mija finally delivers will rip your heart to shreds.
Author: David Jenkins