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. Life is playtime! 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 sounds 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.

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