Poetry Korean Movie Banner

Title: Poetry
Genre: Drama, Art House
Directed by: Lee Chang Dong

*Please note, this movie is for mature audiences. The subject matter can be disturbing and is not recommended for a young audience. The review however will not go into such details in depth, but may briefly go over some of the topics discussed.

Quick Synopsis

Yang Mija (played by Yoon Jeong Hee) is a woman in her 60’s who is raising her grandson, struggling to get by with only a part-time job as a maid. She joins a poetry class and really wishes to write a poem, but her situation gets more complicated as some details of a girl’s suicide get revealed. Oh… and she finds out she’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Not what I expected

Poetry film screencap

Do you ever watch a movie, and to your surprise it’s not at all what you expected? That’s a kind of how I felt when I watched Poetry.

Poetry, as a heads up, was really surprising. It went in places I didn’t expect it to go and often made me feel uneasy. This is part of what makes it so brilliant.

I knew the movie would be profound and introspective, but I wasn’t prepared for it being so raw and frequently uncomfortable. What I loved the most about the movie was our lead actress, Yoon Jeong Hee. Her character was unique, profound, refreshing, realistic and magnetic.

This isn’t a movie to watch because there’s a cool oppa, a hot ahjussi, a lovely agassi or pretty noona.

There’s a very good reason this film won best screenplay at the 2010 Cannes Festival.

I guess I expected a sad drama, but one that was uplifting none the less. This wasn’t what I anticipated, it wasn’t really uplifting or encouraging, but it was exceedingly introspective.

The Frustrations

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There’s so much that is out of our heroine’s control. She’s suffering from Alzheimer’s, and there’s nothing she can do about it. As her memories are fading, she’s having to deal with her troubled, mess of a grandson who shows a lack of respect.

I found the movie quite disturbing and difficult to swallow in many respects. It wasn’t until really thinking about it for quite some time after having watched it that I could begin to really appreciate it. A lot of the made me squirmish hitting areas of my brain with zaps of unease, and I’m usually extremely open to watching some bizarre things.

The movie is slow paced. It’s meant to really have you experience her situations through the way she sees and interprets it.

Bedroom scene? Wait, what?

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So the irony was, I picked this movie to watch something other than a romance for a change. It’s not a romantic story by any means, but there was some very shocking, and unforeseen, revealing scenes.

The Acting

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It’s amazing to me that this was Yoon Jeong Hee’s return to the screen after a 14 year hiatus. Her acting was flawless. It was like she wasn’t acting at all, but just a sweet little old lady that stumbled upon a screen and was living through emotions and searching her soul for poetic justice.

She’s an introvert. Even though she can seem quite outgoing and friendly in many ways, she’s someone who internalizes a lot of her thoughts. That seems to be part of the struggle for her to put her reflection into words in the form of a poem. I can really relate to this. We feel our emotions, but to put everything together the way we want  can be quite a challenge.

I think if you can handle a re-watch of this kind of movie it would be beneficial. I feel like I missed  a lot of nuances and probably misinterpreted some scenes.

It’s not a movie I would openly recommend. I would only recommend it to independent film lovers, who appreciate the message in a movie rather than the entertainment aspect. Also, if you do watch it, be ready to feel very uncomfortable. I came really close to shutting the movie off; not because the movie wasn’t good, but because the director was pushing me to my limit in terms of comfort zone. I have to commend him for that. That doesn’t usually happen to me.

Movie Interpretation

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The way I see this movie is this; Yoon Jeong Hee feels torn and lost. She feels things deeply due to her empathy towards others, and that could be part of the reason that she is drawn to poetry to begin with. She loves her grandson, but every fiber of the body rejects his actions (not him as a person but his actions) and this makes her truly grieve. As she tries to deal with the unfolded events, she tries to really gather in her surroundings. Without even realizing it, she starts experiencing and understanding things through the eyes of the victim. I believe the poem reveals her heart, but at the same time it captures the feelings of the girl who passed away.

There’s no real resolution in this movie. There’s no magic answer of “Oh, well, if you look at life this way instead of that way everything will be better” It’s more that, in her journey of dealing with situations, she managed to capture the emotion of it, and in that there’s some liberation.

Closing Thoughts

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I would recommend this movie to Art House lovers, and those that like to heavily dissect slow paced, introspective movies. There’s a lot of brilliance in this movie.. but I equate it to a disturbing painting. It will cause you to feel things that perhaps you don’t want to feel; but in that it may open your mind to seeing things from a different perspective.

Quick Rating:

Rating after watching: 3.7/5

kdrama Quick review rating

After further reflection: 4.3/5

kdrama Quick review rating