Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Secret Sunshine (밀양)
South Korea's entry for Oscar nomination in the Foreign Language Film category in 2007 is "Secret Sunshine (밀양)" (South Korea 2007, 142 min.), a gripping yet unsatisfying drama.
Piano teacher Shin-ae (Jeon Do-yeon) loses her husband in an accident. She and her young son move to Miryang (密陽), her late husband's hometown, to start a new life. Upon arrival, she meets Jong Chan (Song Kang-ho), a local auto shop owner who shows great interest in her. However, the small town new life doesn't play out according to Shin-ae's plan and a terrible tragedy takes place. Shin-ae has to find a way, including religion, to cope with the unbearable pain.
I am partial to Korean films because many of them tell very original, fascinating, and unpredictable stories. Although I have no idea what might happen next while a good story is unfolding, one thing I am pretty sure is that it won't be something formulaic like most Hollywood films.
That's how I feel when I watch this film. It's so engaging that it's almost frightening to wonder what kinds of twists and turns I might encounter. I don't know where the film is going.
Unfortunately, the film goes nowhere meaningful. It fails to deliver after spending all the energy to build the suspense. It stops short on reaching its climax or making a point with its story. The film ends abruptly leaving audiences perplexed without a resolution. The film seems very ambitious because it opens too many interesting and provocative subjects to tight them up at the end.
Although the later half of the film is disappointing, a stunning performance from Jeon Do-yeon (전도연) alone would make "Secret Sunshine" a worth seeing. Her brilliant portrait of a devastated woman won her the Best Actress award at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.
"Secret Sunshine" is like a rare dish that you might not like it for the first try, but you certainly won't forget it easily.