Friday, July 26, 2013

Film Review: My Son (2007)

My Son (Review)
South Korea/2007
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"My Son is a moving South Korean masterpiece."

Lee Gang-Sik (Cha Seung-won) is serving a life sentence for robbery and murder. On his best behavior for the last 15 years, Gang-Sik has earned a day out of prison to visit his family - his mother and his teenage son, Joon-suk (Ryu Deok-hwan), who was forced to grow up at an early age...

My Son, or A Day With My Son, is a powerful South Korean drama. With heartwarming and heartbreaking moments, Gang-Sik and Joon-suk slowly develop a new relationship. Of course, there is some hesitation, especially from Joon-suk, but that comes off as expected; Gang-sik is a convicted killer, after all, and had to abandon his child at a young age. Eventually, they begin to bond over happiness and tears. One particular moment really touched me: father and son staring off at a full moon, as Gang-sik confesses his love and regret. Much of the story is dictated by monologues and character narration; it feels like deep poetry, written to lead your emotions - and, it succeeds. It follows a familiar path to redemption, but it stays extremely effective, regardless.

Now for the third act, this familiar yet effective story takes a turn into the unexpected. Occasionally, something feels afoot, and this is revealed during the third act. A surprising twist that can make or break a film - a very, very daring twist, indeed. Personally, I think this breathtaking moment is beneficial; it gives My Son the opportunity to differentiate itself from the many similar Father-Son films and to deliver a very important message - and it executes this opportunity without flaw. The actual ending of the film is beautiful; this ending delivers something different, something that will make you think differently about family.

Although it's mostly a dramatic experience, My Son occasionally offers some lighthearted humor. The drama and humor blend well together and work as complimentary elements. Some moments can make you smile, while some scenes can make you breakdown; it really depends on your personality and relation to the film's themes. The pacing is great, the film has some gripping moments; surprisingly, it pulls these off without lifting a finger. As a whole, the film is very effective and entertaining. This isn't a typical coming-of-age drama, it really manages to be much more.

Cha Seung-won plays Gang-sik with a towering performance; he captures his character perfectly - the emotion feels authentic through the tone of his voice, his facial expressions and reactions, and so on; definitely an understated actor as he's also fantastic in Over The Border, but doesn't get the praise he deserves. Ryu Deok-hwan is equally impressive, delivering everything perfectly - from his initial hesitation to his tearful moments, it feels right. The cinematography is often exceptional, and the music is beautiful; both elements compliment each other to further expand the emotional depth of the story. Jang Jin is fantastic as writer and director really proving himself as a unique and creative filmmaker - a true risk taker.

Overall, My Son is a deeply compelling and very daring drama. It's exceptional at every level - the writing, the direction, the performances, the music, the cinematography... everything is superb. My Son is a moving South Korean masterpiece. I strongly recommend this film.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Although it often deals with compelling themes, My Son is generally safe for all audiences.

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