The Way Home
I have a developed a tendency to buy Korean movies that make it all the way to my side of the world as soon as I find them. This is not something that common, In fact the movies we do get here are usually more than 5 years old. Mexico hasn’t developed a strong enough fan base to make this a normal occurence, however slowly but surely my collection grows. And this one has finally made it into my greedy hands.
As I was loading it into the computer, very psyched to watch it. I realized something… Duh! this was Yoo Seung Ho’s acting debut, no wonder I found the boy adorable looking… anyways moving back to the movie.
The most palpable quality of this movie is the silence. This silence is not uncomfortable for the grandma who is mute, but for the young grandson this silence is yet another facet of his visit/forced exile that frustrates him.
There are many things I expected of the movie, for example I expected the kid to act more lovingly towards his grandma. I expected it to be uplifting. But I was wrong.
The first thing that I was wrong about, was the grandson, he’s not a sweetie pie, he’s not even half of one, at least through out most of the movie. I really hated 7-year-old Sangwoo (Yoo Seung ho) he’s such a BRAT. He’s spoiled rotten and he doesn’t have any manners towards his elders. Three quarters of the movie in and I still really really wanted to smack him. He’s so self-absorbed that because his grandma didn’t have batteries or money to buy it he threw away her only pair of shoes she had and regularly mended. He yelled rude things at her like ” stupid mute” “useless person” “retard” etc. and he wrote those things on the wall too. I don’t know how the grandma tolerated it. If it had been me I would have shaken him and rolled him down the mountain, to see if he could learn some manners on his way down or up.
I loved the grandma. Her life is simple, she doesn’t have any luxuries, she’s obviously worked strenuously her whole life for the small comforts she has. Her back is bent, her face parallel the floor, the position probably caused by the fact that she carries heavy buckets and wood on her back, forcing her to lean over. She obviously can’t talk, but it’s not something that makes her bitter. Instead of noise her life is filled with beautiful views that she watches silently, absorbing the beautiful still calmness that her mountain home gives her.
She gives her grandson a bounty of love that is worth more than the things he could ever want for. She goes to market with her worn shoes, carrying some of her crop to sell just to get him a chicken to make soup for him because he mentioned “Kentucky Fried Chicken”. She does everything to make him feel better and gets rejected at every turn and yet.. she never stops trying. In truth, I kind of felt that being a grandmother must be a thankless job after watching 70 minutes of ungratefulness.
I can’t say that I regretted that the boy had to leave his grandma. I think it might have been the best thing at least for her health. He would have demanded so much work out of her just to keep a frown off his face, nevermind that he hardly even gave her a smile.
The most distinctive feature of the movie besides silence was the scenery and the path that was cut into the mountain by people’s continued tread. That path that lead to her house was not without its tricks but her feet knew it well and Sangwoo learned it by following her until he could lead her up the path to home.
Sangwoo’s growth was not very noticeable, because he didn’t completely stop being a brat, but he became a minor one, who was at the end able to give up his favourite postcards and draw pictures in the back thanks to his growing feeling for his patient, aged grandmother.
I didn’t feel as uplifted as I felt the movie tried to make me feel. What I did feel, was that despite the bad attitude, the continuous stream of abuse the grandma received from her brat grandson, she still loved him. and perhaps she would be a little lonelier now than before he had arrived.
I was so predisposed to love YSH’s character, but I found him unloveable, even when he tried to be nicer, I couldn’t really see it as a complete change, perhaps if he’d stayed longer with her, perhaps if he hadn’t returned to the city with his mother who would undoubtedly continue to give him stuff so that he doesn’t bother her, perhaps then he might have been a character I could care for. Instead the one who ended up taking my heart away was the grandma, I really only cared for her.