"It is not melodramatic, it is not even pretentious and best of all it feels very personal."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
Korean, the version I watched had English subtitles. The subtitles aren't bad though but I suspect some were lost in translation.
Written & directed by
Very few people actually.
Kim Eul-boon - Grandmother
Yu Seung-ho - Sang-woo
Dong Hyo-hee - Sang-woo's Mother
Min Kyung-hyun - Cheol-e
Yim Eun-kyung - Hae Yeon
Plenty but no Oscars of course. Check imdb.com!
This is a heart warming story of a young brat from Seoul who was taken to a remote village by his once again single mother who could not cope looking after him whilst looking for a job. So he was taken to be cared by his mute and very old grandmother who was living alone in the village for 2 months. She could hear him though and he was rude to the core, until one day he learns the lesson of humility, learning to say sorry and discovering that he could speak so much more to his grandmother although she was silent throughout. He made some friends and went through his first puppy love. In the end he left the village a changed boy and left his grandmother his prized cards of his favourite supertoy with messages at the back of the cards that will sure warm your heart and bring you to tears.
A better summary taken from imdb.com
Seven-year-old Sang-woo is left with his grandmother in a remote village while his mother looks for work. Born and raised in the city, Sang-woo quickly comes into conflict with his old-fashioned grandmother and his new rural surroundings. Disrespectful and selfish, Sang-woo lashes out in anger, perceiving that he has been abandoned. He trades his grandmother's only treasure for a video game; he throws his food and he throws tantrums. When Sang-woo's mother finds work and finally returns for him, Sang-woo has become a different boy. Through his grandmother's boundless patience and devotion, he learns to embrace empathy, humility and the importance of family.
I have always wanted to buy this VCD, because the cover although in yellow was very attractive, with a happy looking and handsome young boy with an even happier looking but very wrinkled old woman. This movie won a lot of awards and basically the script is almost non-existent since the old woman is supposed to be mute. Therefore a lot of the emotions and actions in this movie are displayed through lots of music of all moods and hand gestures. Not sign language but usual gestures that I am sure can be easily understood.
I like the portrayal of the relationship between the old lady and the young boy. The young actor, Yu Seung-ho was superb in this role as the ultimate brat; he even kicks his mother when he's having his usual tantrum and even insults his grandmother, calling her a stupid dumbo in some scenes, all of which she could hear. But she persevered and in the end moved him with her love and dedication. One of the best scenes has got to be when he was screaming he wanted to eat Kentucky Chicken (as in KFC). She never knew what it was but she travelled all the way in the rain to nearby town, bought a chicken and basically boiled it for him. He refused to eat it until he was too hungry. She then fell ill and he in turn took care of her. Guilt played some part in his actions.
Then there was this particularly simple scene which speaks volumes where he alone ate a plate of noodles whilst his grandmother sipped tea and then she simply paid the amount with the little money she had. He felt remorse, because his grandmother was very poor and travelled a long way to town to sell the fruits and vegetables she grown, and it is not a lot. And yet when he left on the bus to sit next to the young girl he had a crush on, his grandmother was unable to get on the bus since itwas full. He refused to take her bag, because he felt ashamed at the sight of her shabbiness and when he reached home, he waited one whole night and she still didn't come home. In the end he discovered she walked all the way home and in a way he was glad she came back, and he wasn't abandoned but that incident made him realise how much he misses her, and he left his one only chocolate biscuit in her bag for her to eat.
There are many more of such little scenes that catches ones eyes. How she left money wrapped in a wrapper together with his hand held game boy so that he can buy batteries when she herself does not spend money on her ownself. How she silently pushed him to have his lunch, using gestures to ask him to help her in her sewing and many more.
But the final scene was the best and probably will move you to tears. That was when he was about to leave, and he taught his grandma how to write and told his grandmother who was silently wiping her tears that "You must write to me, tell me you miss me. If you're sick you must tell me...no no, you just send me a blank paper when you're sick and I'll come right away..." and yet he worries that she will forget about that. So the night before he left he was busy writing something, and when he left he didn't say a word to her except I guess to signal he was sorry and he gave her some cards. The old lady saw they were his favourite cards and at the back of the cards there were drawings and words which wrote "I miss you!" and "I am sick!" which was meant for her to send it to him. The scene ended with a very long walk home for the old lady.
It is those little scenes which makes this movie very watcheable, apart from the amazing performance from the young boy. The old lady I suspect is really not that old, because her hands aren't as wrinkled as her face. Their chemistry was perfect, although not one word was spoken by her, but her actions spoke of love and dedication. Whilst I won't say this movie was the best ever as it was flawed in the sense that all of a sudden he had a crush on a girl, all of a sudden he was attentive to his grandmother, when the camera should have concentrated more on the old woman's face, the camera was busy pointing elsewhere thus killing the mood of the movie or that some scenes are played out way too long but those are slight flaws one can put up with since this movie isn't exactly blockbuster mainstream type of movie. It is not melodramatic, it is not even pretentious and best of all it feels very personal. I thought though the story could have been better written in the sense the focus should remain on the old lady and her grandson instead of diverting to crushes and a boy and a mad bull. If it had been that way I would have no doubt this movie would have been on the same par as Children of Heaven.
Speaking of Children of Heaven, this movie reminds me of Majid Majidi's movies; simple storyline that can be heart wrenching as well as learning for all of us. I am amazed a simple tale could move me so much. No, I shouldn't say amazed. Often times it is those simple tales that will make the biggest impact on the emotional level.
I am amazed though that I am fast becoming a fan of Korean cinema which could really make fluffy TV series which are nonsense and yet at the same time capable of making movies that are entertaining or moving or interesting or all of those things. Hollywood and Chinese cinema has become stale for me and I am increasingly looking to South Korea for better quality movies and most often than not, I am not disappointed although I am not a fan of those light hearted movies or TV series. I am especially annoyed that whenever I am watching anything Korean which my family would think it is just a passing phase of the "in" thing, they would hurl insults like "What ah? Korean movies again ah? You don't get bored ah?". Well, I don't see them getting bored watching Hollywood flicks. And when I was watching All About Eve and Taegukgi, two so happens to have Jang Dong Gun in it, they would say things like "Aren't you bored yet? Why waste my time?". And when I was and still is chasing Jewel In The Palace, I was basically cowed into embarassment over my interest over this series with their thoughtless comments like "You hog the TV, always watching Korean series every weekends making me unable to watch what I want" and yet I distinctly remember saying "You also hog the TV every week to watch CSI : Miami, at least this series has an end to it whilst Miami is still here". This debate has been going on forever, whenever I watch something that is not to not to their liking, and I distinctly remember the same comments were hurled whenever I watched Singaporean series. The same whole thing also happened when I was watching this movie and I ignored them.
My family can be very competetive when it comes to the TV but I stood my ground. I am not going to miss ONE episode of Jewel In The Palace so that they can flick between channels wondering what to watch because let's face it, the movies they want to watch they have watched for the hundredth time and during that particular time slot, they don't have any particular series or movies to watch. Whenever I sit down to watch TV, I have a particular series or movie I want to watch. I do go channel surfing but that's only during commercials. One must have a destination and I always have a destination when it comes to TV. So to all who face the same problems like I, perservere my friends. These ignorant fools do not know what they're missing whilst our lives is enriched a little by learning the culture, the tradition of other people and best of all, be very entertained.
Ok, you can say the greatest contribution Jang Dong Gun ever given to me, as a viewer is making me sit up and take notice of Korean cinema to a really obsessive level. Anyway, those comments by my family are personal attacks because I remember they liked JSA and Lost Memories. Well frankly I don't know why they want to waste MY time watching the rather shallow Desperate Housewives and some nonsensical TVB series too but I didn't complain because it is their time. I am sure many will agree with me every country has its fair share of good cinema and bad cinema and good series and idiotic series, so Korean series and cinema is of no exception and right now, yes Korean cinema and TV series is the IN thing but it's not without basis. They do make good films, not all but so far most I have seen may not be the best of the best but it is a good diversion from the usual we see. The action scenes are still the same, but it is fascinating to see Asian cinema can produce what Hollywood could produce. I am not Korean but I am Asian so there is a sense of wonder, if not pride in what I wrote. And one can't deny their male stars, those famous ones do have star quality. I also like to note that I like the sound of their language and some words are distinctly Cantonese!
Anyway, in the end, this movie is not those big type of movies with big actions or lots of lines uttered. The silence in this movie is in itself the script that many will understood, irrespective of their origin. In the end credits of this movie, the director wrote this movie is dedicated to all grandmothers. The grandmother in here is very passive but yet in her silence and resilience, she can move a rock. I can't think of a more moving dedication than this one where the silent bent old woman moves her arrogant spoilt brat of a grandson with her love, making this young boy into a better person.
Highly recommended if you're into such kind of movies and if you can ignore the flaws with the focus and the pacing. If not this is not the movie for you.