Sunday, November 04, 2007

Milyang (Chang-dong Lee, 2007) aka Secret Sunshine

Secret Sunshine(Chang-dong Lee, 2007)
Rating: 9.5

Writer/director Chang-dong Lee's Secret Sunshine is an emotionally wrecking and complex character study about a woman who moves to her late husband's hometown with her son to begin a new life, only to find more tragedy. The first quarter of the film introduces us to the characters through exposition and captures our hearts with comic relief provided by Jong Chan (Kang-ho Song: The Host, Memories of Murder, JSA, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, and Lady Vengeance) as well as the adorable interplay between mother and son. Unexpectedly the film takes a sharp turn in a different direction after Sin-ae's (Do-yeon Jeon) son Jun is kidnapped and murdered by his teacher. As her family ridicules her claiming "death follows her" and neighbors try to console her, Sin-ae turns to religion for remedy at the suggestion of the local pharmacist. The second half of the film focuses on her post traumatic recovery, as she convinces herself that religion has cured her pain. Interestingly enough the film begins to play out like a evangelical Christian propaganda piece, although we soon find that it's more of a critical indictment as the religious followers are exposed as elitist hypocrites who explain away life's horrors with "the word of God." Different characters use religion as a crutch for different purposes. Sin-ae turns to religion to repress her pain, Jong Chan sees this as an opportunity to impress her and begins attending church, while the murderer seeks God for forgiveness for his sins. Do-yeon Jeon's performance is brilliant throughout as she portrays a woman experiencing intense post traumatic turmoil. She was well deserving of the Best Actress Award she received at Cannes.

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