A former high school teacher and novelist turned filmmaker, South Korean Lee Chang-dong has, with movies like Peppermint Candy, Oasis and Secret Sunshine, crafted a body of work ripe with mesmeric understatement, shining a light on quotidian pain and delight, and locating meaning as much in how his characters don’t react to certain situations as in any more active plotting. His latest film, Poetry, the Best Screenplay award winner at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, centers on a sixtysomething grandmother, Mija (Yun Jung-hee), who, after learning two bits of potentially devastating news, tries to center herself and find release in a poetry class at a neighborhood cultural center.
Laden with metaphor and seeded with a (culturally specific, some might say) passivity that is decidedly out of step and fashion with much American cinematic storytelling, Poetry isn’t explicitly a morality play, by any stretch of the imagination. Nor is it even really a movie about the slide of dementia, like Ken Watanabe’s Memories of Tomorrow, since the onset of Mija’s condition is so minimal, as presented here. Still, the film has a lyrical delicateness that marks it as something special, different and thought-provoking. Poetry is beautiful, just not for everyone. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Kino, unrated, 139 minutes)