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.
September 23, 2011
Caution: Spoilers Abound
Reading snippets of interviews and press releases for Drive, I found a number of references by star Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn to John Hughes, specifically Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles. These were perplexing remarks knowing what little I did about the film, but as I watched the film, I slowly found them quite instructive. Perhaps not for the reasons they intended, I’ll admit, but instructive all the same. Trying to analyze the similarities in a straightforward way, I couldn’t find any connection beyond a simple love story and romantic synth-pop heavy soundtrack, but even those elements weren’t terribly Hughes-like in any specific way. It dawned on me, however, during certain sequences between Ryan Gosling’s Driver (as is so often with characters of this type, he’s never given a name) and Carey Mulligan’s Irene, the next-door neighbour with whom he makes a connection. It was the feeling of these scenes that reminded me of Hughes. Not in a direct way, mind, but in the way that I watched Hughes’ movies as an adolescent, all filled with a simplistic, romantic notion that came about through a combination of my total lack of understanding of how real relationships might function and beautiful, heart-on-its-sleeve emotional synthpop. Therein lays, I think, the key to coming to understanding not only the Driver, but also the larger perspective of the film as a whole.