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Poetry Film
Monday March 21st, 2011

Poetry, a Korean film written and directed by Lee Chang-Dong is the 2010 winner of the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival.  It begins and ends with a river to symbolize the enduring human spirit which keeps on flowing even through the darkest times.

When Yang Mi-Ja was a young girl she was told by a teacher that she would grow up to be a poet. Now at sixty-six she decides to embark on a mission to give her life meaning and discover the poet that she hopes resides somewhere inside of her. Undaunted by a diagnosis of Alzheimer's she enrolls in a poetry writing class at a local school taught by Kim Yong-Taek who is a real-life poet.

In the neighborhood Mi-Ja in her pretty floral dresses becomes something of an eccentric as she sits around with a notebook staring at objects like trees because she wants to capture the essence of the tree - to see it as if for the first time.

The rest of the time she supplements an old age subsidy with money she earns providing home care services to an old curmudgeon who seems perplexed by her sunny disposition. She shares a cramped apartment with her grandson, Jong-Wook, whose dissociative behavior troubles her. He never utters a word except to complain about meals. Like most of his contemporaries he spends most of the time submerged in TV, PC and video games. His mother has no contact with him and occasionally talks to Mi-Ja via cell phone.

Later when Mi-Ja is shaken by a tragedy at Jong-Wook's school she finds herself struggling to reconcile her integrity with her desire to protect family.

Poetry is a powerful contemporary story. It succeeds as a human drama and a critique of modern society. Yun Jeong-Hee gives an excellent performance bringing great humility, dignity and truth to her role of Mi-Ja who's something of an anachronism in a world that has grown isolated and apathetic.

This is another achievement for acclaimed Korean director Lee Chang-Dong and the growing Korean film industry in general.