By Lee Hyo-won
Amid the speedy, adventure-packed film releases, "Wedding Dress"
, a mellow family drama with an andante tempo, seeks to provoke a different sensibility ― to gently pull at the heartstrings of sometimes over-stimulated viewers.
The teary mother-daughter story may be more appropriate for a May release in time for Family Month, and it would have greatly benefitted from some heavy editing to speed up the painful crawling pace and straight-to-DVD movie quality. Nevertheless, compelling child actress Kim Hyang-ki
turns cliched predictability into something tastefully classic, and the movie will undoubtedly become a steady cable TV movie listing for the general audience.
plays the role of Go-un, a wedding dress designer who is more often seen frantically running around to correct mistakes than working with chiffon. (The amiable actress, who is more familiar in more elegant roles, is at times surprisingly irritating as the scatterbrained woman).
Nevertheless, the young widow manages to make ends meet for herself and her loving, though rather cheeky, little daughter So-ra (Kim). She may not be the most adept parent but never forgets to pick up an umbrella-less So-ra from school when it's pouring outside.
Meanwhile, Go-un ― or rather the pitchy-voiced Song ― redeems herself by revealing that her exaggerated efforts at making everyone around her happy are simply a means of preparing for her death (though the movie makes no secret of the fact that she has cancer). The film's title alludes to Go-un's ultimate parting gift, a special dress for her daughter's wedding, which she will never get to see.
So-ra is however preoccupied with her own problems, having to deal with a borderline case of obsessive compulsive disorder, which causes her to refuse to share food with others. She is ostracized at school and even cuts ballet class, finding refuge in hanging out at the neighboring "taekgyeon" (a Korean martial art) class.
Local screens, both big and small, have been dominated lately by flawed personalities, both fictional and real. So-ra, adorable as she is, exhibits a relatively mild case of unpleasant fits compared to other "national brats" in the media, but the film's comic relief mostly revolves around So-ra being less-than-pleasant to her enthusiastic mother.
So-ra, who learned to look after herself from a young age, is always pouting if not also mumbling her nagging comments to her mother. The precocious young girl may have grown up too fast under the care ― or lack thereof ― of her immature single mom, but naturally she cannot live without her.
The movie's heartfelt moments are rooted in So-ra's coming-of-age as she pretends to be oblivious to her mother's condition while fulfilling her mother's wishes one by one, trying to make the best of their limited time together.
The movie follows in the footsteps of films that highlight familial love that flows upstream, from child to parent, while dealing with premature death. A notable candidate for comparison is "Aeja", about a bickering mother and daughter who learn to bond in the face of terminal illness.
may have been stonger and delivered the narrative more effectively had it shown the entire story from the child's perspective. But its dramatic quality is at the same time heightened by the switch in perspective.