Lee Chang-dong (Secret Sunshine, Oasis, Peppermint Candy) delivers yet another big screen triumph with Poetry, a movie which also marks the return to the silver screen of acting legend, Yoon Jeong-Hee, who has been retired since 1994. In Lee’s film, she plays a 67 year-old grandmother, taking care of her loutish grandson and barely scraping by with a series of odd jobs.
As the movie begins, she has been given a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and so she enrolls in a poetry class in an effort to sharpen her mental faculties and delay the advance of her dementia. Simultaneously, a young girl who lives in her neighborhood commits suicide and slowly, in Lee’s expert hands, the strands of this narrative — a brute of a grandson, a tired old woman, poetry, suicide, senility — all come together to deliver yet another of Lee’s enormous, epic, subtle, sprawling portraits of the wo rld.
It’s a movie that should be compared to a novel for all of its elegance and depth, but that is also, truly, cinema: a story that could not be told any other way but in enormous, illuminated images.
For my review of Poetry, which ran on September 26, 2010, click here. The film, which was then screening at the New York Film Festival, earned the highest possible ACF Rating of 4 out of 4 stars. I've watched it again since then, and that rating holds now and will no doubt hold in the future.