Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Old Garden (2006) Film Review
The Old Garden
Reviewed by: Susanna Krawczyk
It is an age-old story – a convict of many years gets out of prison to discover that his old life has moved on, the people he once new are gone or changed and he must begin anew. Such stories can be unremittingly tragic - the protagonist mourning his lost youth and past and unable to reconcile his new world to what he remembers - but a more hopeful tone is present in this South Korean movie, based on a novel by Hwang Sok-yong.
Oh Hyun-Woo (Ji Jin-hee), a political prisoner who has been jailed for 17 years after being arrested during the anti-government riots involving students in May 1980, is released back into the world. His hair is greyer than it was when he was incarcerated and his family are older but still loving and protective. He slips back into family life, his mother fussing over him and insisting on taking him clothes shopping, but he cannot forget his long-ago lover Yoon-hee. Their tale is told in flashbacks, with an optimism born of youth, political conviction and love, made bittersweet by the knowledge that all this has passed and that life is not the same anymore.
Yoon-hee is played by Yum Jung-ah with spark and personality. It is easy to see why she would be hard to forget. Denied visiting rights due to her arrest and involvement in the same incident that resulted in Hyun-woo’s imprisonment, she stares contemptuously into the face of authority. Perhaps the great tragedy of the story is that it is not her who makes the noble sacrifice of her freedom for her political beliefs instead of the slightly smug and rash Hyun-woo. The sentimental nature of the film also lets it down somewhat, as it may be hard to swallow for those more interested in the political side of the story.
Directed by Im Sang-soo, who is no stranger to depicting the events of South Korea’s turbulent recent history, The Old Garden to begin with has a dreamy feel during its “present day” moments and an urgent, vibrant aspect during Hyun-woo’s remembrances. As his memories fade and real-life catches up, however, the mood brightens and quickens. “Life goes on” is the message here, and the past is the past. All in all quite a lovely film, if sentimental.Reviewed on: 20 Aug 2007