Daniel Henney, Kim Young-Cheol, Ahn Seok-Hwan, Kim In-Kwon, Choi Jong-ryeol
Dong Hyeuk Hwang
Dong Hyeuk Hwang
James Parker (Daniel Henney) had been adopted into a loving American
family at the age of 5 and grew up healthy and happy. However, he
always had a sense of longing to find his birth parents. Now, James
enlists as a soldier in the U.S. armed forces in Korea and returns in
search for his real parents.
With the help of his KATUSA (Korean Augmentation Troops to the US Army) friend, Joseph Shin, James is able to find and visit the nursery in Choon-chun where he had briefly stayed before being adopted abroad. There, he learns that his Korean name was ‘Eun-chul Gohng’. He then decides to appear on a national TV program to find his birth father…
Touching, Heartfelt. Daniel Henney’s best performance to date.
Inevitably this movie will be a touchy subject for most Korean Adoptee’s (KADs). While not all adoptee’s were to the United States (Sweden, UK, Australia) this movie shows somewhat of a standard situation. A white, middle to upper middle class with a white sibling as well as another adopted Korean sibling. I thought the depiction was quite accurate and mirrors what a lot of adopteed kids went through right off the plane. Fortunately today, Korean Adoptee activism is very active and there are several international organizations (G.O.A.L.) specially created to help with Korean adoptees. No need to join the military.
However the use of the military in the movie did serve as a way to show the division and identity questions that are often raised by Adoptee’s such as “am I Korean”, or “am I American”…or maybe both and neither at the same time. The movie showed the relative conflict between the American soldier, Gabe, and the Korean counterparts…albeit a bit unfairly for as many KAD’s will point out, the Koreans aren’t always so quick to welcome back their “long lost” relatives either. Similarly the scene where James meets his dad, and is told to hug him and tell him he loves his dad in front of the press seems to show that the mainstream Korean society still has much to learn. Also the scene with James talking about his ex-girlfriend, Christina, and how her parents didn’t want him to date her, hinted and skirted around a couple of the conflicts KAD’s have to deal with throughout their life.
I felt the performance by Daniel Henney (who best to play the role of James) was undoubtably his best performance to date. While not adopted himself, but rather bi-racial, his emotions felt raw and very real and you can tell he did a lot of preperation for the role. It seemed obvious that he wanted to do the real life depiction justice. I did wonder at how readily he accepted his new found “father”, and this is where i think the movie opted for the easy out. Instead of showing the intense internal conflict and emotional turmoil KAD’s go through upon finding their birthparents (as well as the adoptee’s parents and family back home), the movie opted to gloss over that part and concentrate on James dealing with his father as a murderer or possibly con artist.
I was happy that the movie found good actors to play the roles of the Americans, often times you find in Korean films where there needs to be a “white” actor speaking some English roles, the dialog is often times stiff and the acting bland. In this film however, the acting was good and genuine. The musical score and cinematography that switched effectively from handheld to cinematic really communicated the powerful emotions going on. While the film was certainly not trying to tackle the issue of KAD’s in general, and only briefly touched on some of the issues surrounding KAD’s, I felt it did give a heartfelt look inside one experience. Hopefully with the star power behind Daniel Henney, this movie will continue to reach beyond the screen and entertainment and provoke thought in those watching it.
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