Poetry

"Extraordinary"

Poetry Review


Is art about seeking beauty or honesty? Is it entertaining or emotive? Or is it about finding truth in an unfathomable situation? This ambitious drama asks big questions while telling a story that's both engaging and provocative. And in the end it's almost overpoweringly beautiful.

In a provincial Korean city, 66-year-old Mija (Yun) lives with her surly teen grandson Wook (Lee), whose mother has moved to find work. Mija is a carer for a grumpy stroke victim (Kim Hira) and, just as she's diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer's, she learns that Wook is involved in a local schoolgirl's suicide. To take her mind off of these things, and perhaps to delay her illness, Mija enrols in a poetry class. And she begins to see her world in a new light.

Filmmaker Lee Chang-dong elegantly tells this story without gimmicks. Mija is a wise and friendly grandmother, always slightly overdressed and quietly keeping to her place as an irrelevant member of society. Although as Wook's guardian she's hardly that. She's also drawn into a group of five men, fathers of Wook's partners in crime, to pay hush money to the victim's family. But Mija's perspective on all of this is changing.

Yun's performance is a work of art as she brings Mija to wonderful life with attention to the tiniest detail. As Mija begins to explore this horrible crime, she notices that her mind has begun to let her down. And the complexity of this character echoes the film itself, which has a disarmingly gentle tone that belies the intense subject matter.

Lee's approach is bracingly realistic, grounded in Mija's perspective. Bright and sunny scenes are constantly interrupted by people or mobile phone calls.

And Mija's heightened sensitivity opens her to some pretty shocking observations. Without ever boiling over into sentimental melodrama, the film tackles some outrageously sensitive issues. And by taking such an earthy approach, each scene is charged with meaning, no matter how quiet it may be.

Along the way, scenes are deeply inspirational, quietly devastating and eerily chilling, sometimes all three at the same time. And there's also a constant reminder that each of us carries poetry inside us everywhere we go. This is what helps us make sense of the world around us, especially in the face of seemingly irrational tragedy.



Poetry

Facts and Figures

Genre: Foreign

Run time: 139 mins

In Theaters: Friday 11th February 2011

Box Office USA: $0.4M

Box Office Worldwide: $349.9 thousand

Distributed by: Kino International

Production compaines: Pine House film

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 61

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Lee Jun-dong

Starring: Jeong-hie Yun as Mija, Hira Kim as M. Kang, Da-wit Lee as Jongwook, Myeong-shin Park as Heejin's mother, Kim Min-Jae as Detective Kim, Ahn Nae-sang as Kibum's father

Also starring:

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