April 24, 2018

My Love, Don't Cross That River: Old Feelings

She's 88. He's 98. They've been married for 74 years and he's now got a cough that sounds like death which it is. But before he goes to the other side, Jin Mo-young's unabashedly sentimental documentary My Love, Don't Cross That River reveals the secret behind this beyond-golden marriage as the two geezers throw leaves at each other, throw snow at each other, and throw water at each other or walk around in matching outfits. There are moments of true tenderness, like when Jo Byeong-man strokes his sleeping wife's head at night after he wakes up in the wee hours or when Kang Gye-yeol teases a newborn puppy to go over to "grandpa" to give him a lick. Some of it feels staged; some of the dialogue prompted by having a camera nearby. Yet even so, you can tell these two people are soulmates so any skepticism about geriatric love is quickly left at the door of one of the two doghouses outside the country home (where a pair of small dogs named Freebie and Kiddo are chained up cruelly, if ignorantly so).

Though you don't see much of the offspring, you do get a glimpse of them at a New Year's celebration and then at a birthday party. Like any family, some of the kids are cool; some seem insufferable; some make their parents cry. From what I could tell, that generation almost universally dyes its hair. To be honest, they all seem irrelevant. My Love, Don't Cross That River really is about a love between two people to the exclusion of everyone else — the doctors, the nurses, the other bus-riders from the senior center, the children, the grandchildren, the neighbor with the ugly dog, the unseen filmmaker... It's as if this love could only survive on the mountain if everyone just left the perfect pair alone. Naturally she wants to join her beloved in the great beyond as soon as possible. There's no one else worth sticking around for. And — spoiler alert — one of the dogs is dead.

April 17, 2018

The Favourite Young Man: Plumbers Are People, Too

Yet another public service announcement from the propaganda ministers of North Korea, The Favourite Young Man has but one intent: To remind us that a person should not be judged by their job but by how well they do it. There's nothing inherently better about white collar than blue collar or for that matter pink collar work. If anything, blue collar and pink collar jobs may be more important in that they are truly about serving the people. Any attempts to get a research position, in hopes of being more respectable, should be called out for what they are: Pretentious! And yes, the young accordion-playing plumber (who has come to his profession somewhat reluctantly) and the young, bashful seamstress (who recognizes his worth right from the start) are the two most attractive people in the movie. The construction worker who repeatedly refuses to take the wise advice of an experienced plumber — who also just happens to be the young plumber's incredibly good-natured mother — is nothing more than an arrogant buffoon!

The hour-long movie's one major subplot involves another female plumber (an industry apparently dominated by housewives and widows). This embarrassed tradeswoman, fearful of being unlucky in love, hides beneath her headscarf and behind a pair of oversized sunglasses as a way to escape recognition by her fiance who's a highly respected boxing coach. But does she really have anything to be afraid of? Of course not. He's an enlightened athlete working in the most masculine of professions yet even he knows: There's nothing wrong with being a plumber! It's a respectable way to earn a living and one which ensures that we all have access to running water in our homes; without it, there would be no toilets, no showers, no kitchen sinks in which to wash our dirty utilitarian dishes... Guess who has the bathtub that keeps getting clogged? Hint: It's not one of the plumbers.