Poetry is a masterpiece from one of South Korea's most cherished movie directors, Lee Chang-dong. The simple story follows the everyday life of a grandmother, Mija, who works as a caretaker for a living. To fill her inner emptiness, she decides to join a poetry club with other grandmothers in her neighborhood. Meanwhile, as Mija deals with her own financial and health problems, she struggles to connect with her teenage grandson — only to find out that he is keeping a dark secret. If you are familiar with Lee Chang-dong works, then you know that the movie will tug at your heartstrings. But if you aren't, prepare to be moved.
Both poetic and epic in scale, Pachinko (adapted from the bestselling novel of the same name) tells the story of a family spanning four generations, three nations, and one dream: to ensure a better life for their children, and their children, and so on. Because the story is rooted both in the unique experience of immigrant life and in the universal values of family life, it can seem painfully striking and relatable all at once.
Despite the many places and eras it traverses, Pachinko also feels less nostalgic and more real-time, deeply immersed in whatever setting it’s in, taking us breathlessly for the ride.
Sensitively directed by Kogonada (Columbus, After Yang) and movingly acted by veteran Youn Yuh-jung and breakout star Minha Kim, Pachinko is certainly one for the books: an arresting adaptation through and through.
This Park Chan-Wook classic is the third part of a trilogy of films around the theme of revenge, following Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy. While ultimately unique, Lady Vengeance is a thriller set in a prison, in the vein of films such as the Japanese action drama Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion. After being framed and wrongly convicted for murder, our protagonist seeks out the true perpetrator of the crime –– but more than anything else, she seeks vengeance.
This film’s run time is 115 minutes and every second is essential. There is often gratuitous violence perpetrated by men against women in film, however Lady Vengeance takes back control and for that reason it remains one of my favorite revenge films.
A zombie virus breaks out and catches up with a father as he is taking his daughter from Seoul to Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city. Watch them trying to survive to reach their destination, a purported safe zone.
The acting is spot-on; the set pieces are particularly well choreographed. You’ll care about the characters. You’ll feel for the father as he struggles to keep his humanity in the bleakest of scenarios.
It’s a refreshingly thrilling disaster movie, a perfect specimen of the genre.
This docuseries follows six couples from Japan, the U.S., Spain, Brazil, and India, as they share their stories of a lifelong partnership.
It might sound like any other Netflix Original, but there are no twists or turns, and it never feels forced or aimed at a trend. Instead, it’s a mirror of the peacefulness that the couples have built together: a tender and simple existence that’s impossible not to aspire to.
The first episode follows a couple in Vermont who maintained the last farm in their area until passing it on to their son. Once high-school sweethearts, Ginger and David went on to have six children, and stay married for 60 years.
This life of quiet doesn’t necessarily mean an easy life, especially as the two have to pick between expenses like affording care or getting their grandchildren birthday gifts. Their biggest concern at this point is making it easy for their children after their passing, which carries its own weight.
In Move to Heaven, a man and his son clean up after the dead—specifically, the dead who have no one else to look out for them. Believing that no one should be robbed of a respectable farewell, they piece together the deceased’s possessions and celebrate them postmortem. It’s a noble job, but its existence is threatened when the father passes away. It’s now up to the ruffian uncle with a heart of gold to continue the business and bond with his nephew, who himself struggles with Asperger's.
It’s easy for Move to Heaven to feel weighed down by all the important stories it tries to tackle; represented here are disabled people, depressed people, queer people, overworked people. But it breathes so much life into these stories that they hardly feel like the drag other shows and movies make them out to be. Tragedy here is expertly blended with humanity, and the result is a moving and compassionate series that stands out even in the saturated content space that is Netflix.
It’s 1994, and Seoul is facing massive, rapid changes. The unrest is reflected by a lot of its residents, including Eun-hee, a disaffected teen with a less-than-stellar home and school life. She manages to get by with the help of friends and lovers, that is until they change too, and Eun-hee is forced to grapple with the volatility of it all.
Sensitively told and genuinely captivating, House of Hummingbird is a stellar debut by writer-director Kim Bo-ra. Her command shines in how young actress Park Ji-hoo dynamically portrays Eun-hee, in how the story meanders but never loses footing, and in how each frame displays a quiet gorgeousness as the primary colors of her youth pop against the faded backdrop of urbanized Seoul. The delicate balance of all these elements is sure to evoke a sincere, profound feeling in every viewer.
Snowpiercer is an under-the-rader post-apocalyptic thriller that offers the grittiness that many times only Asian cinema may achieve. South Korean director Joon-ho Bong forces audiences to forget that Chris Evans was ever a Marvel superhero, as he leads a revolt of his fellow “low-class” citizens against the self-appointed gentry in a train that contains all remaining members of the planet. With immersive environments and a layered script, this film melds together social commentary and moral discourse in a visually arresting and vastly entertaining package.
In the West, South Korean film is largely defined by the ingenious (oft violent) bombast of directors like Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) and Bong Joon-ho (Parasite), but there is a quieter tradition championed by director Hong Sang-soo that is just as imaginative and worthy of your time. This fascinating film serves as a perfect entry point to a director whose filmography is full of similar riches.
A film director arrives in town to deliver a lecture, and having some time to kill, ends up sharing a day with a stranger. This simple set-up recalling Before Sunrise leads down a charming and quietly romantic route that would be delightful on its own, but Right Now, Wrong Then is about much more than just a chance encounter. It’s a film more concerned with how little moments here and there can change everything, and how much our lives are governed as much by chance and timing as the choices we make.
This South Korean coming-of-age story, an award-winning debut from Lee Su-jin, is centered around a high school student named Han Gong-ju. There's a dark aura surrounding our teenage protagonist, as she avoids making new friends and closes herself off from the world. More than anything, she is afraid that people will discover the secret behind her shy persona, and the past events that changed her life forever. This is an intricate and truly devastating tale, sensitively told, and is likely to leave even the most hardened viewers filled with rage at those who have wronged Han Gong-ju.