There is an undeniable charm to Lee Chang Dong’s Poetry which examines the life of an elderly woman attempting to learn the art of writing poetry before she is consumed by old age and ultimately Alzhemiers. It’s a sobering tale of finding beauty in a violent and disturbing world, as a tragic murder involving a high school girl sets the landscape for the story. There is also an undeniable similarity between Poetry and this year’s earlier Korean film Mother in that they both focus on an older motherly figure struggling to come to terms with their lives. And while Mother dwells more on the suspense of the murder mystery, Poetry is very different in tone opting for a deeper emotional resonance and lyrical subtext. The end result is a both a beautiful and tragic story of attempting to understand life’s complexities at its most simplest.
The performance veteran actress Yun Jung-hee delivers as Mija, the protagonist in Poetry, is astounding and definitely the anchor of this film’s success in connecting emotionally with the audience. Mija is a woman in her sixties forced to take care of her dead beat grandson Wook (Lee David) while making a little extra money on the side as a house maid to elderly man, paralyzed by a stroke. Despite her daily struggle to maintain normalcy in her life, she decides to one day enroll into a poetry class at a local cultural center. There she is introduced to a new way of thinking about the world in trying to find the subtle beauty in the simplest of things. However as the murder mystery unravels to reveal connections with her grandson, she is forced to face the burden of guilt while also dealing with the onset of memory loss from Alzheimer’s.
FONTE: The Film Stage