English Title: The Way Home
Running Time: 80 minutes
Director: LEE Jung-hyang
Wirtten by: Ryan Law
It is usually hard for women directors to have their films, but even harder for their successful. LEE Jung-hyang is one of a few leading female director who can stand out for their projects. After her commercially successful ART MUSEUM BY THE ZOO (1998), her latest film THE WAY HOME has taken a big challenge by taking no star in it except a 7-year old boy and a 77-year old grandmother.
Film started and filmed in a rural village very far away from urban area. A single-mother takes his 7-year old Sang-woo to her mute grandmother to take care for a while. The rest of the film is the interactions for the two persons on the same family but living in two different world. As expected, the remaining of the film goes to how they can break the ice in their communications and end up with good companions.
Director LEE sets up the film with only very short introductions and giving audiences a wide atmosphere to explore the taste of rural parts in Korea - broken houses, lack of home equipment, lack of toys and lack of community facilities. Audiences can expect to see another side of Korea with its rapid development over the past decades.
Within expected synopsis, the film offers unexpected strength in directing and story telling. First half of the story shows the pride of city boy Sang-woo in all aspects - unwilling to communicating with his mute grandmother for her failure to achieve his unpractical desire, teasing the children at his age in the village for him being a child in a higher class community.
Yet the excellent performance by first-time actress KIM Eul-boon shows the deep love of a grandmother - taking care of the grandson by seeking his need and trying to achieve his hope. While Sang-woo requests for fried chicken, she took a day going to markets miles away from her home on foot for a chicken and spending all the time to the chicken well done. Her efforts resulted in the dissatisfactions by Sang-woo for not being fried. Still the son eats the chicken later at night for being too hungry and found it delicious. KIM's performance impresses audiences' heart while LEE's direction gave a strong contrast between her and her grandson.
Always all the time the film is filled by different levels and dimensions of contrast - new and old, urban and rural, rich and poor as well as young and old. All the performers are not professional but this strengthens the film to be more convincing. After all the love given by her grandson, Sang-woo finally learns the way to take care of his grandmother and deals with his new friends around the rural village. His changes in his initiative is the tools to impress audiences and it is also what the audiences are expected.
While audiences are taking the view that this film is one of the winners in the local box office, you cannot find anything that can formulate its box office success for all the gimmicks. The film is pretty pure, pure enough for audiences to feel without doubt and pure enough to make you cried without much dialogues. This definitely shows director LEE for being one of the top directors in Korea.