139 minutes| South Korea| 2010| Subtitled| Colour| D-Cinema


A seemingly dotty Korean grandma taking an adult-education poetry class is certainly unlikely subject matter for a profound look at modern life’s skewed priorities, yet writer-director Lee Chang-dong has here delivered one of the year’s left-field celluloid triumphs. Something of a legend at home, actress Yoon Jeong-hee came out of retirement to turn in a subtle and deeply touching performance as the still-beautiful Mija, whose diagnosis with early stage Alzheimer’s brings new urgency to her poetic ambitions, while the class assignment encourages her to look more closely at the world around her. All this seems at one remove from the darker side of the story, in which her surly teenage grandson is responsible for the tragic sufferings of a local high-school girl, yet Lee allows the connections to come into poignant focus as the heroine for the first time weighs her place in Korea’s male-dominated society against the wisdom and anger she’s too long kept deep inside. This is empowering, passionate and masterly filmmaking. (Notes by Trevor Johnston).

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