Dir.: J K Joun | Cast: Jeong-min Hwang, Yunjin Kim | South Korea 2014, 126 min.
A full-blooded epic, ODE TO MY FATHER spans over fifty years of Korean history. Full of overwhelming images from the chaos of the war; the danger of the mining, to the brutal war in Vietnam: all this is more enough for one film. Unfortunately, J K Joun too often drifts off into sentimentality, the action is tragic enough to impress without going over the top. Impressive performances and Byung-woo Lee’s powerful score save the drama offering a fascinating a overview of 20th Century Korean history from the personal perspective of one man.
We first meet our hero Yoon duk, as a boy in 1950 in North Korea, fleeing with his family from the Chinese army. An American warship takes some of the refugees, but during the chaotic scrambles to get on the ship, Yoon looses his sister Maksoon. His father tries to find the little girl, but is never seen again. The grown-up Yoon (Hwang) will mourn the loss of his sister for the rest of his life: he cannot overcome his guilt. The family settles in Busan, where they work for Yoon’s aunt Kkotbun in her grocery shop, which Yoon will inherit one day.
In West Germany in the Sixties, he works in a mine near Duisburg, just escaping an accident with his life, he falls in love with the South Korean nurse Youngj (Kim). The two marry and have children, but Yoon again goes abroad to fight against the Vietcong in the Vietnam War. A TV-show tries to re-unite families who lost each other during the turbulent Korean history, and Maksoon, who has been adopted by American parents, sees her family again, just before her mother dies. Yoon, who stubbornly does not want to sell his shop (which is being demolished to make space for a modern shopping centre), finally agrees to sell – for the first time in his adult life, he accepts defeat. AS
ODE TO MY FATHER IS THE GALA OPENING OF THE LONDON KOREAN FILM FESTIVAL 2015 | 2 -14 OCTOBER