Thanks to #CinemalayaX and to my future sister-in-law who lent me DVDs, I am redeveloping my interest in watching films. The following Korean films have interesting plots and even made me cry! The tearjerker ratings you would read in this review are only my views :)
Starring Cha Seung-won, Ryu Deok-hwan
Tearjerker rating: 3 of 5
Lee Gang-sik (Cha), a repentant prisoner charged with robbery and murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, applied for a one-day leave from his 15-year stay in prison to see his son, whom he last saw when he was still three years old. He then finally meets his son, Joon-suk (Ryu), who obvioulsy feels awkward upon meeting his criminal father. Father and son had only one day to refresh their relationship. But through Gang-sik’s sort of fatherly instincts befell unto him a surprising revelation.
The film effectively immerses the feeling of awkwardness of the criminal father-son meeting after 15 years to the viewer, but the monologues delivered by Cha and Ryu during these awkward moments were also likewise, awkward. The voiceovers of Cha and Ryu may have effectively revealed what they feel inside, but these made their emotions so obvious in some scenes. However, Cha’s portrayal of his agony as a father longing to be with his son was heartfelt. Also, some of the film’s graphic effects and Cha’s effective comic portrayal (when he was studying some greetings as a way of catching up with his son and with the present) gives a lift from the film’s being too gloomy and, well, awkward. Though the shocking plot twist and its details in a hurry, it did not affect the film’s emotional build-up, thus effectively portraying the storyline’s originality.
Tearjerker rating: 4 of 5
An aspiring woman boxer (Ha) struggling to become Asia’s boxing champion. Her brother struggling to fly on his own. A network marketing agent (Gang) struggling to convince her mother that her job was not a pyramiding business, and to find a man who could lift them out of poverty. Two children (Chang-ik and Yoo-seon) struggling to make a living and find ways for their grandfather (inflicted with stomach cancer) to be hospitalized. A gangster (Im) struggling to oust residents of a squatters’ area along 1st Street (including Ha’s, Gang’s, Chang-ik and Yoo-seon’s characters) through force to give way for a modern apartment complex. The entire community of 1st Street struggling to overcome the dilemma brought about by the feared demolition, but was somehow saved from such despair thanks to the gangster Pil-je (Im).
Obviously, the film’s plot featured so many events, making it hard to grasp altogether. However, it effectively portrayed seamlessly how these instances and all the characters got connected with each other for the buildup of the overall plot, thanks to all the characters’ close-to-real portrayal (especially Chang-ik and Yoo-seon). The most outstanding acts would be of Chang-ik and Yoo-seon overcoming all these beatings and bullying. When some scenes would become too depressing (including slapstick and bullying), comedy is suddenly put into the foreground (the toilet jokes and dumbass portrayals, especially by Im), which would justify the comedy genre of the film. In particular, Im’s character build-up from being a gangster to being compassionate with 1st Street residents, and of being sort of developed to Myeong-ran (Ha) also made the film lighten up, thus countering the depressing scenes. The overall plot may be quite hard to grasp at once, but the mix of comedy and tragedy was effectively and smoothly made.
Starring Seol Gyeong-gu, Kim Nam-ju, Gang Dong-won
Tearjerker rating: 4 of 5
The film was based on a kidnapping case in Korea which remains unclosed as of 2007 (when the film was shown). In Christmas time in 1991, Han Sang-woo, the son of respected newscaster Han Gyeong-bae was kidnapped. Gyeong-bae and his wife Ji-seon (Kim), and the kidnapper (voice of Gang) often got in touch with each other, with the latter demanding so much, including about $200,000 worth of ransom. The police later intervened in the pursuit to free Sang-woo, utilizing technology in forensics to find out the identity of the abductor and the location of him and Sang-woo. The incident also tested the faith in each other, the the police, and in God. How would things turn out during and after 44 days?
The film was more of drama than detective, since the emotions of all the characters worsened as the plot developed, and the focus on the use of technology to solve the case was less significant. The portrayals of Seol and Kim were just outstanding.
Well, the opening sentence may give you a hint on the film’s overall plot and ending.
This film will just leave you utterly devastated.
Tearjerker rating: 10 of 5
Lee Yong-gu (Ryu), a mentally-challenged parking lot attendant and single father, was framed up in the alleged rape-slay of the daughter of the police commissioner. He was later sent to Cell # 7 of the maximum security prison. He suddenly misses his daughter Ye-seung (younger one portrayed by Gal, grown-up one portrayed by Park), so his colleagues in prison would make a way to bring her to him though it would mean another life sentence. Many “miracles” happened during Ye-seung’s stay in prison. In the end, would father and daughter be able to prove the latter’s innocence and reverse his death sentence?
An exceptional mix of comedy and drama, the film brilliantly narrated the unwavering love between father and daughter, the loopholes in the criminal justice system, and the will to defy the status quo. It also featured the seemingly perfect balance of the light and dark sides of the prison cell. Thanks to the dumbass and other comic antics, and emotional portrayals of all actors, the film will make you laugh a lot, but will make your heart cry out loud more. The most outstanding and heartfelt acts were of Ryu (a huge leap from his villain portrayal in Hwang Jin Yi), Gal and Park.
One should not miss watching this film since it is still (and will always be, I think) trending on social media and even in personal conversations.
Lest I forget, I can’t wait for this film to be aired on free TV and dubbed in Filipino.
This blog post is open for further discussion about the featured films, and other Korean film recommendations! :)