Every Korean has a strong emotional connection with the word, "eomma" (mother). In most cases, Korean mothers have gone through tough times, including war and poverty, that make it hard to navigate life itself.
But mothers never give up, especially when it comes to things related to their children. Their relentless love often translates into heroic - and unbelievable - acts, and those who have mothers know what the word "eomma" really means for their entire life.
"Long and Winding Road
", which opened Thursday, features one of such strong-willed mothers in Korea. The mother (Go Doo-shim
), nearing 70, wants to participate in the wedding of her youngest daughter, but her chronic dizziness - a sort of incurable illness - makes it terribly difficult to move from her hometown in Haenam to Mokpo where the wedding is set to take place.
The dizziness is serious. She cannot ride a bus, nor can she use other transportation. Family members come up with all sorts of ideas to resolve the problem and help their mother to reach the destination, but solutions are hard to find.
But the mother has her own solution in mind: walking all the way through the mountains to Mokpo - for three days.
"Well, my son says it's not a matter of life and death to attend the wedding of the youngest daughter, but frankly I really want to go there", the mother says.
As for her, the youngest daughter's wedding is symbolic. Five other sons and daughters have settled one way or another, and by sending her youngest daughter to a new family, the mother completes a cycle of duty in her life.
Symbolism aside, the mother ventures to embark on the trouble-laden journey. She's old and weak, and the roads are rough and filled with hazards. Nevertheless, she willingly walks all day long, together with her children (though they are now adults, they are still children in her eyes).
The eldest son (Son Byung-ho
) and the second son (Kim Yu-seok
) largely accompany their mother along the challenging route. During the process, something more than sibling rivalry is revealed.
It turns out that the second son is a true troublemaker and is now running away from the mistakes he has made. The eldest son is pretty well aware of the sloppiness of his brother, and confronts him whenever possible.
When they actually fight, it is the mother who gets really hurt. And the movie incorporates such common scene into the plot in a way that reminds people of their past and present, as well as their mothers.
For those who know veteran actress Goh and her immense influence, the movie should be a tearjerker from the very beginning. But director Koo Seong-joo
, who previously made the little known "He Asked Me If I Know Zita" back in 1997, did not fall into the tempting formula.
Instead, the director shows how the mother goes through the journey and interacts with everything that she meets along the way. Universal sentiment, in other words, is presented in a familiar dramatic technique.
This simplicity is refreshing given that the current Korean cinema industry is swept by extreme plots and exaggerated styles. Of course, this approach can be viewed as outdated and trite among younger moviegoers, but the movie breaks ground in a way by telling a simple story and detailing natural backgrounds from which the mother moves forward step by step.
Some of the scenes toward the end of the film are emotional enough to prompt viewers to shed tears. But the intensity may fall short of expectations, especially if a mother and daughter come to watch the movie together.
The plot is based on a real life story featured in a television documentary. So the overall storyline is largely solid. But some of the episodes are not in harmony with the main storyline. For instance, a fantasy-like character shows up and talks as if he's a master of life, but doesn't fit in nicely with the story itself.
There is another fantasy-like scene where the mother meets one of her daughters who has become a Buddhist monk. The daughter says she saw her mother in her dream the previous day and so she's waiting for her to appear all day long. This is not impossible, but fairly unbelievable. More important, the sudden intrusion of fantasy breaks the otherwise smooth rhythm of the film.
The audience, meanwhile, may worry about how the mother could return to her hometown once she makes it to Mokpo. The conclusion of the movie offers a unique and symbolic answer. Some of the viewers may not agree with the final ending, but what they likely agree is that their real mothers have led a similar life devoted to their children, featured in "Long and Winding Road
By Yang Sung-jin