Poetry, in other hands, could have been a tiresome melodrama, its presentation of an old woman in the early stages of Alzheimer’s ripe for easy manipulation of heartstrings. Instead, it is a thoughtful story of quiet desperation—and it really is lovely.
Sixty-something Mija (Yum) is a lonely woman. Her only present family is a spiteful, sullen grandson, and her social interaction is largely via a convenience store and a stroke victim whose demands for sexual favours sicken her. Alzheimer’s also approaches, news Mija attempts to ignore but cannot as her loss of memory becomes more apparent. Then, catastrophe comes; her grandson is part of a group of boys who lead a girl to suicide after repeated rape. Mija’s impulsive joining of a poetry class is what underpins this story. Having had no outlet for her emotions for so long, she initially struggles to write; it takes the rape and consequences for her to grasp her teacher’s philosophy that one must understand before writing, a subtle allegory applicable to her life as a whole.
But what really makes this film is Jeonghie Yun, gracing us with her first appearance in 16 years. Her portrayal is wonderful, showing a deep sadness and acceptance of her lot; this is a woman who acts with her whole being, not just via script, almost creating an aura around her. Truly impressive.
Star Rating: 5/5