Friday, January 13, 2017

Film Review: Hope (2013)

Hope (also known as Wish) (Review)
South Korea/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...one of the best films I've seen in years..."

After 8-year-old Im So-won (Lee Re) survives a devastating sexual assault, her family attempts to help her heal while confronting their own sorrow...

Hope is a devastating drama about a family, a brutal sexual assault, and a broken criminal justice system. The film follows the Im family: Dong-hoon (Sol Kyung-gu), a hardworking father who inadvertently neglects his family, Mi-hee (Uhm Ji-won), the hardworking mother trying to keep everything afloat, and So-won, a spunky young girl who is ready to tackle the world. One morning, So-won is violently raped by a disgusting man. Her internal injuries cause her to undergo significant surgeries that will affect her for the rest of her life; her emotional injuries will also scar her, taking time to heal. So, Dong-hoon and Mi-hee do everything in their power to help their daughter. I won't spoil anything else about the plot. I think you get the gist. It's focused on developing its characters and relationships while always pushing the plot forward. It leads to a devastating ending that shines through its glimmer of hope.


Hope is a fantastic film. It is one of the hardest films I've ever had to watch. Sexual assault is always a sensitive subject, but the film doesn't use it as a crutch. It doesn't brutalize a little girl and expect you to care. No, the film's focus on character and relationships allows you to meet the people suffering from this tragedy. It doesn't rely on melodramatics because it handles its drama with finesse. It is both delicate and powerful. This tragic story, based on a real assault, kept me hooked from beginning to end, too. Of course, the plot is also very important. Not only does it offer a compelling perspective of South Korea's criminal justice system (which is probably as flawed as ours in the US), but it also delves into the healing process of sexual assault victims. It's a difficult subject, obviously, but it does offer some hope.

The performances are superb. As I stated earlier, this film does not rely on melodramatics to strike a chord. The performances are fine-tuned, natural and effective. Sol Kyung-gu, who was fantastic in Peppermint Candy, delivers another fantastic performance here. Uhm Ji-won is also versatile. Lee Re is stellar – one of the best child performances I've ever seen. The film is well-shot and the music is perfect for the subject-matter – never too intrusive but still very effective. The film was written by Jo Joong-hoon and Kim Ji-hye, and directed by Lee Joon-ik. In terms of writing and direction, I felt the filmmakers created the perfect drama – a drama that focuses on characters and handles its themes with a respectful hand.

Overall, Hope is an outstanding film. It is a powerful drama about a sensitive subject – and it's handled masterfully. If you're looking for a film to move you without any gimmicks, this is it. In terms of Korean movies, this is one of the best I've ever watched. As a matter of fact, this is one of the best films I've seen in years - regardless of region. It's right up there with another excellent drama about abuse: Silenced. Watch them – both of them.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood. The film is about rape and the healing process so it may be disturbing to some audiences.

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