By Lee Hyo-won
It was with a certain relief this reporter saw the omnibus film "Sorry, Thanks". Among the few dramas featuring animals in Korean cinema, this seasonal movie targeting family audiences does not stop short of being cute and cuddly or featuring amazing tricks by pets.
Four acclaimed directors bring their own style and perspective to depict profound connections people establish with cats and dogs, all the while providing an incisive observation of the dynamics that mark various human and cross-species relationships.
The piece explores the estranged relationship between a father and daughter. Dr. Oh, a pioneer of robotics technology, lives alone in a large mansion with canine companion Su-cheol. His curator daughter Su-yeong beseeches him to sell the house in order to help fund her gallery, and is disappointed when he refuses. After Oh suddenly dies of a heart attack, however, Su-yeong discovers her father's parting gift and profound lessons by taking care of Su-cheol.
In "Cat Kiss", on the other hand, Im Soon-rye, who touched hearts with the sports drama "Forever the Moment", shows how a father and daughter are at odds over animal preferences.
The daughter, Hye-won, is a cat lover who roams the streets at night to care for strays. Her father on the other hand despises furry creatures, and constantly tries to dissuade her from continuing her hobby. But after an unexpected turn of events, the man begins feeding the stray cats himself and even shares a tender kiss with one of them.
When Yeong-jin discovers that his newly adopted pup is ill, he feels motivated to start anew and begins working and socializing again. Watching the grown man play ball with the small dog evokes the sight of two young lovers, and inspires pleasant laughter.
Bo-eun and her "little sister" Bo-ri are inseparable, doing everything together from watching TV to sharing ice cream. But when her real sister is born, Bo-eun must bid a devastating farewell to Bori.
Each film highlights the pronounced emotional and psychological exchanges people share with their animal friends. The directors, however, refrain from rubbing animal rights clauses into people's noses.
Though some of the films provide interesting information about policies on neutering stray cats or welfare programs that allow the homeless to adopt stray dogs, the characters are the ones that offer the truly poignant moments in well-scripted situations.
Also notable is the distinct style of each film. Song brings a lilting poeticism to his pastoral portrait of a family, while Park brings the magic of fairytale storybooks to the screen.
In theaters May 26. Rated 12 and over. Runs 114 minutes. Distributed by Kino Eye DMC.
Three out of four stars.
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2015 51st PaekSang Arts Awards