Jeon Do-Yeon, Song Gang-Ho, Jo Young-Jin, Kim Young-Jae, Kim Mi-Kyung
May 23, 2007
After losing her husband, a woman named Shin-ae (Jeon Do-yeon) and her only son relocates to a small-town called Miryang (Secret Sunshine) for a new start. When tragedy strikes again with her son Jun, one local man (Song Kang-ho) stands by her through all of her struggles and tries to offer her hope.
“Secret Sunshine” (Miryang) from Lee Chang-dong (“Oasis” “Peppermint Candy” and “Green Fish”), one of Korea’s leading filmmakers, has created a vivid and emotional movie that has struck a chord in viewers everywhere. Shin-ae played by Jeon Do-yeon is easily one of the best and well known actresses in Korean film entertainment. Her poignant, and emotional portrayal of the slow breakdown of a single mother losing everything earned her Best Actress at the 2007 Cannes International Film Festival as well as being selected as one of the 50 most influential women in the world by a Variety. She was also voted as the “Best actress of the year” at the 2007 Female Directors Festival. Following on the heels of the Cannes’ win, Jeon took home the special award from Korea’s Daejong Film Festival, the Okgwan Order of Culture Merit from the Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Best Actress Award from the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (where the film also won the prize for Best Feature Film). She continued to sweep awards, winning the Best Actress Award from the Korean Movie Critics Association and the annual Blue Dragon Awards.
In total, Lee Chang-dong’s “Secret Sunshine” took home four of the top awards at Korea’s 6th annual Korean Film Awards, held in Seoul Dec 1st. Lee’s fourth feature won best film, best director, best actor (Song Kang-ho) and best actress for show-stealer Jeon Do-yeon. Jeon has won a total of seven acting honors since being awarded the Cannes best actress prize in May of this year.
In addition to the award winning performances by Jeon Do-yeon, and Song Kang-ho, the film itself bursts at the seams with tension, and emotion. The film centers on a recent widow, Shin-ae (Jeon Do-yeon), who moves to the town her late husband liked in order to start a fresh new life. When her car breaks down outside of town Jong Chan, a local mechanic, becomes immediately enamored with her and finds himself drawn to her. Shin-ae is less concerned about this as she and her only son are still coping with the recent loss of her husband, at which it is hinted that he wasn’t exactly the most loving and caring husband. When tragedy strikes again, Shin-ae begins a dark downward spiral. The mental breakdown and emotional tantrums makes us uncomfortable as Shin-ae’s anguish is palpable, and the worse fear of any parent is felt. The film also introduces the role of religion and how it plays into reconciliation and healing in a very difficult situation. While others have hinted at a tone of negativity or even anti-semitism, i emphatically disagree, and believe strongly that the role of religion in the movie was perhaps raw, but definitely realistic struggle between faith and justification. In a typical (although not necessarily bad) “independent” film style, the camera work switches between more cinematic to handheld viewpoints, and there is very little background or musical score. This is a must see film and after a waning Korean box office is certainly what the Korean film industry needs.
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