Directed by Lee Chang-dong
Grief can be messy, and who better than Lee Chang-dong, director of Oasis and the upcoming Poetry, to show how bad it can get. Young widow Shin-ae (Cannes winner Jeon Do-yeon, currently also The Housemaid) starts the story essentially lost, having picked up stakes with her adorable son and moved to her late husband's small hometown. If I tell you that her life is soon rocked by a second tragedy, you'll probably figure out that it involves the kid, so there it is. Actor and director proceed to track Shin-ae's emotional breakdown and spiritual crises in one of 2010's 20 best films, from 2007 (when it first premiered).
A former concert pianist setting up shop as a tutor, Shin-ae's determination and uncertainty seem to be two halves of the same whole, and her child is nothing less than a linchpin. When disaster strikes (feeling like a fulfillment of a newcomer's paranoia), Shin-ae tries everything in "coping" (religion, theft, sex, general acting out). Jeon's performance is thankfully not a bare-all bawlfest (Lee shoots one key scene from behind on a dim street) but rather a run-ragged unpredictable mix of the grand and the petty, abysmal despair and fighting-for-a-cab frustration. Key foil to her flailing is a smalltown-connected mechanic (always appealing Song Kang-ho, known here for The Host and Memories of Murder), enamored and indefatigably playing the long game.
Opens December 22 at IFC Center