Bong-yong (played by Sung Ji-ru) is an oafish yet lovable construction site manager with a wife and three kids. He's pushing fifty, and initially chalks up his harsh stomach pains to old age. Alas, it turns out he is suffering from cancer. From there, Bong-yong chooses to spends most of "My Last Love" suffering alone. The only clue the people around Bong-yong have that something is wrong is that the normally placid man now occasionally has sudden unexplained psychotic breakdowns.
Which in retrospect should probably have been a pretty strong clue to them that something was up. Don't let the apparently distinct personalities and subplots of the rest of the cast fool you. "My Last Love" is entirely Bong-yong's story. The overall moral thrust of the movie is to teach a very simple moral. Don't be stupid and refuse to tell your family about your medical problems out of some misguided notion of self-sacrifice.
That much is a shame because there are hints of a decent ensemble piece in here. Teenage daughter Dal-nim (played by Kwon So-hyun) keeps blowing off studying to do busking instead. Slightly older teenage son Woo-joo (played by Hongseok) is really upset about the daycare, for reasons which end up being a lot less interesting than I was expecting. Young daughter Byeol-nim (played by Lee Ye-won-I) mostly just really loves her dad in a cute way, which was fine for me.
But the closest we get to a serious subplot is with the wife Hwa-yeon (played by Jeon Mi-sun), who keeps fighting with her husband over all the time he spends at night carousing. This leads to what is probably the movie's best gag- where Byeol-nim insists that the sofa must actually be her father's real bed. In retrospect this might be one reason why Hwa-yeon does not pry too much into Bong-yong's condition, since these could all plausibly be consequences of his giving into her demands that he stop going to after work parties.
Although honestly, there's not that much depth here. "My Last Love" is a fairly basic story about finding hope and redemption in God and family when faced with your own mortality rather than just giving in to despair. Oh, did I mention that part? "My Last Love" was funded by South Korea's Christian Broadcasting Corporation. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it just explains a lot about why the project feels so generic. This is the kind of movie you to show to a cancer support group to emphasize that no, cancer is not a unique world-ending tragedy and that you are not alone in suffering through it.
If you really want to be skeptical about "My Last Love" being secret Christian propaganda, the closest it gets to that is its message of how you can trust priests. Even though they can be jerks sometimes to their own children. Creativity is largely sacrificed for the sake of simple relatability here. The result is that "My Last Love" ends up feeling very sincere, even if it's not terribly impressive as filmwork.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "My Last Love""
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