In Korean, the word "sowon" can be translated as either "hope" or "wish." So-won also happens to be a girl's name. That IMDb has decided to translate this bleak pic's title as Wish (not a girl's name) instead of Hope as Netflix wisely does suggests the Artificial Intelligence at the International Movie Database has yet to see the movie. Because there's nothing wishful about Hope, Lee Joon-ik's harrowing film about the rape of an eight-year-old girl and its devastating aftermath. To be fair, there's not much hopeful either but there are at least glimmers of the latter, enough to restore a little faith in humanity, although God knows we're an awful species. Our failures are great. Bring on the flood.
It's also worth mentioning that Hope is not the result of some twisted writer thinking, "What's the most horrific scenario I can concoct?" Sad to report: Kim Ji-hye based his screenplay on real events, a turn-your-stomach nightmare in which a 57-year-old man who had a history of violence not only sexually violated and nearly killed a young girl but then got off with a 12-year sentence because he was drunk at the time. Clearly, the American court systems aren't the only ones that make unjust rulings that fill you with rage.
So what's the point of a film like Hope? Its central story is vile, justice is not attained, the acting is to be frank hardly the stuff of legend. Well, for me, it was a timely reminder of the importance of making the effort, even when the options are limited. There's something incredibly moving about watching a mom (Uhm Ji-won) and dad (Sul Kyoung-gu) dress up as cartoon characters to cheer up their damaged child (Lee Re), of a co-worker (Kim Sang-ho) who lends money with no expectation of a return, of a friend (Ra Mi-ran) who brings food and tears of commiseration, of a schoolmate (Kim Do-yeob) who leaves a thoughtful note taped to your front door. There is never nothing to be done.