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Jun 16 2016

Doc Corner: 'My Love' a Romantic Gem

Glennhere with our weekly look at documentaries from theatres,festivals,and on demand.We're a bit late this week due to internet problems,but we're here now looking at the fan favourite hit,My Love,Don't Cross That River.

The opening shot of Jin Mo-young'sMy Love,Don't Cross That Riveris one of breathtaking beauty.An elderly woman sits at a grave,the ground and trees covered in snow,her crying a distinctive cut of a knife through the serene nature.If this were a fiction film,people would crow about how artfully it is composed and how even without knowledge of its subject or circumstances it is able to immediately create wells of emotion in the audience.By the time Jin's film returns to this tableau some 80 minutes later,it does so with the complete story behind it and if the reserved simplicity of it had somehow alluded the viewer in its opening moments then surely the impact will well and truly be made now.

My Loveis a film about a marriage.Jo Byeong-man is 98 and Kang Gye-Yeol is 89,and the pair who met when she was just 14 have been married for 76 years.Without that opening shot foreshadowing events to come,one might struggle through the opening half of Jin's movie which captures the pair in almost unbearably cute form as they play child-like games while doing yard work,wear matching colourful silk outfits on day trips,pick flowers,and take care of their dogs (one of which is named Freebie because,well,he was free).But when Jo becomes increasingly sick,the film takes on a deeper resonance as Kang must confront the inevitability that she will be alone for the first time in nearly eight decades.

This causes some of the film's most poignant moments like when Kang,according to Korean custom,begins burning his clothes in a wood-fire furnace so that he has warm clothes for the afterlife.Earlier,its significance somewhat ambivalent,Kang purchases six pairs of longjohns as a symbolic gesture for the six children she lost as children so that her husband can greet them when he passes away.Meanwhile,other sequences featuring the unfiltered reactions from their now adult children highlight the disparity within cultures.And then,of course,this emotion runs right up until the final sequence in which we yet again see Kang mourning at the grave site of her beloved ‘hubby',her future as uncertain as her commitment to him was unwavering.

The pair was obviously charming,and director Jin Mo-young's camera is clearly smitten with them (like the rest of the country,he first laid eyes on them on a South Korean reality program calledGray-Haired Loversin 2011).It's rather impossible to not be charmed to some extent,even if the overt cuteness that they exude often comes off as potentially forced.Still,forced or not,the second half is such a powerful display of love and devotion that it's hard to care about potential quibbles of authenticity.Jin-sik Hyun's editing is simple,but never simplistic;it at times mimics the languid ebbs and flows of the elderly,while also recreating within the narrative the often sudden changes in health and disposition that come with old age.

This is a wonderful film and it's not hard to figure out how it became the most successful independent film and documentary in South Korean history with over three million admissions.It's hard to imagine too many people walking out ofMy Lovewithout having had some sort of emotional response.

Release:It is out this week through Film Movement.

Oscar chances:I suspect it will be popular with those who make the time to see it.We gotCutie and the Boxeras a nominee a few years back,and it's not too hard to imagine the charm of its subjects garnering votes among a collection of heavier titles.

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Reader Comments (3)

Thanks for writing this up,Glenn - it seems like a real charmer.As a Korean American,I do a piss-poor job keeping up with films from my "motherland,"so it's always good to have reminders I need to remedy that.

June 16,2016 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

So Cutie &The Boxer was good so maybe we should all try and see this.Film Movement is hard for me to track somehow.Don't you have to have a subscription for actual dvd copies or something?

I assume the scenes as children were recreated given how long ago that would have been -- the documentarians would also have to be nearing 100 :) -- was it recreated just from their actual shared memories?

June 16,2016 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

lylee,it's somewhat surprising and yet completely understandable that this was such a huge success.A real word of mouth wonder.

Nat,no flashbacks,but recollections spoken to camera.I'm not sure about Film Movement themselves,but the publicity company that does work for them had a screener.

June 18,2016 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

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