(Photo : CJ Entertainment ) Kim Yunjin and Hwang Jung Min star in "Ode to My Father." New Yorkers can be jaded but there was not a dry eye in the theater, following a recent screening of Ode to My Father. Ode to My Father is a Korean movie which speaks to all audiences through its rough-hewn portrayal of war torn Korea and the difficult events which follow.
Directed by JK Youn, Ode to My Father opens with Deok Su (Hwang Jung Min) and his wife, as they reflect upon their life and send their adult children away on an excursion while looking after the grandchildren. During a walk in the streets with his granddaughter, Deok Su is plunged into memories of his childhood in North Korea.
(Photo : CJ Entertainment USA )
As a child, Deok Su is forced to flee from North Korea. He reflects upon a scene in which his family is firmly in the grip of North Korea, as tensions between the Southern regions, China, and U.S. forces started to reach a boiling point. At is at this point that audiences are introduced to Deok Su, a young boy who is given the daunting task of looking out for his little sister, as chaos ensues around him.
Deok Su fails to keep up with his sister during a mass exodus in which North Korean families struggle to scale American military vessels which will provide them with entrance to safety in the South. His father turns back to seek out his sister during this critical point. At a very young age, Deok Su is given the daunting task of serving as the head of his household, which consists of his mother, sister, and brother. Downtrodden but safe from the perils of North Korea, the young family seeks refuge with Deok Sus aunt at her small shop in Busan.
The film brilliantly captures the grungy, undeveloped streets of Busan and the post-Korean War nation which is a stark contrast to the gleaming cities featured in marketing materials that are currently served up by the Korean Tourism Board. Deok Su navigates the shanty town and rickshaws that populate the city.
As an immigrant from the North, he faces strong discrimination which he reflects upon in his old age, while defending an immigrant couple who is being harassed by local student. Korea is a homogeneous nation and the general sentiment becomes apparent during these scenes.
(Photo : CJ Entertainment USA )
Deok Su meets Yeong Ja on the outskirts of a German mining village. As the film progresses, Deok Su establishes a strong friendship with Dal Gu (Oh Dal Su) which leads to his enlistment as a worker within a German coal mine. In Germany, he falls in love with Yeong Ja (Yunjin Kim), a nurse of Korean origin. After a near-fatal mining accident, Dal Gu is nursed back to health by Yeong Ja, leading to their marriage.
Ode to My Father embraces pivotal events for Koreans and also touches upon conflicts which impacted the world. Deok Su and Dal Gu willingly travel to Vietnam as engineers, where they witness the atrocities of the war. At this point, Deok Su wisely reflects upon the similarities between the horrid conditions in Vietnam and those he faced as a young boy in North Korea. He is greatly affected when the women and children of a fishing village attempt to flee with the assistance of American soldiers. TVXQs Changmin delivers a touching cameo during this scene.
If the screenplay were weaker, Ode to My Father could be dismissed as yet another Korean film which focuses on the hardships of filial responsibility.Through its cinematography and strong story, Ode to My Father is a gem of a film which ushers in a promising year for Korean movies.
Running Time: 126 minutes Rating: Not Rated