January 5, 2012
Mija is an elderly woman looking after her grandson. She’s a part-time in-home caretaker to make ends meet. She goes to the doctor to see about a pain in her arm and learns that she’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Soon after, a local girl’s suicide is tied to her selfish, carless teenage grandson and everything begins to fall apart. In the midst of all this, she decides to take a poetry class at a local college. Jeong-hie Yun plays Mija with thoughtfulness, confusion, and a reservoir of able understanding. It’s one of the best performances of the year, and it’s the centre of Chang-dong Lee’s extraordinary character study Poetry. As she comes to grips with the fact that her normal life is all but ending, she attempts to come to terms and fix the predicaments she finds herself in while also awakening to the possibilities of her creative self. Her struggle to understand poetry and what it takes to write a poem gives her an aura of wonderment that those she comes in contact with assume is a goofy thoughtlessness. Her slow understanding of the transcendent power of creativity and art, and her final attempts to truly know herself, make for a stunning, thoughtful film.