DVD Movie Review
Directed by Lee Jeong-hyang
By our guest blogger, Julie Lam
Feeling pensive on a lazy Sunday afternoon? Take a break from the 3D bonanza and soak up some warm rays from Lee Jung-hyang’s acclaimed South Korean gem. A surprise box-office hit, the film beat out several top-grossing American blockbusters such as "Spiderman," "Oceans Eleven" and "A Beautiful Mind" in the Korean market.
"Dedicated to grandmothers everywhere," “The Way Home” tells how one grandmother’s unwavering selfless love leads to one young boy’s awakening.
We see the brattish Sang-Woo (Yu Seung-ho) aggressively playing his Gameboy as he and his bone-tired mother ride in a ramshackle bus through the Korean countryside. The busgoers annoy Sang-Woo because of their ‘basic-needs’ lifestyle, and we’re already irritated with Sang-Woo. Mom needs to go job-hunting again so she’s leaving Sang-Woo in the hands of her 78-year-old mute, hunchbacked mother (Kim Eul-boon). The grandmother is a paragon of patience and self-sacrifice. Her face is the kind that can only truly be captured by close-up photojournalism.
During the months that ensue, Sang-Woo wreaks havoc among his grandmother’s household. He urinates on his grandmother’s clogs, forcing her to journey barefoot over rocky terrain to retrieve water. He barely looks at her and even calls her a retard.
The grandmother, on the other hand, responds with nothing but unrelenting love. She travels into the village’s heart and undergoes many hardships just so Sang-Woo can have Kentucky Fried Chicken one night--and of course, the meal wasn’t what he expected, so he bawls his eyes out. Sang-Woo is a sourpuss who makes us question his mother's bad parenting. But part of this film’s staying power lies with its audience participation--in this case, our ability to react viscerally with its characters.
When his insolence has us approaching the edge, the director mitigates it by showing Sang-Woo's increments of appreciation for his mute grandmother. By the end, he cannot bear to leave her.
Aside from reaffirming the "love surpasses language metaphor," “The Way Home” pulls and lulls with great emotional power and speaks with a cultural sensibility that doesn’t alienate as many foreign films do.