Yoon Duk-soo (Hwang
is an old man in modern day Busan, but he still keeps busy providing for his
family both immediate and extended. His adult children crack wise about his
refusal to slow down and focus on something other than money, but flashbacks to
his earlier life reveal why he’s so driven. We see him as a young boy who along
with his parents and siblings are attempting to evacuate their seaside village
before the advancing Chinese arrive, and in the chaos and panic that ensues he
loses his grip on his younger sister’s hand. His father jumps into the sea in search
of her but not before passing “man of the house” responsibilities to young
Duk-soo. From there we between the present and various stages of his life as
his family and his efforts to support them grow in tandem.
last film was the disaster film Tidal Wave — it’s about a tidal
wave — and he carries that film’s attempted balance between humor, spectacle
and drama onto this project with more consistent results. There are
moments of slapstick-like humor throughout, oftentimes separated by only a
minute or so from scenes of loss, suffering and heartbreak. It doesn’t always
work leading to moments that gags that feel too broad and moments that tease
overwrought melodrama, but more often than not the film pulls viewers in to
Duk-soo’s heartfelt adventure of life.
Hwang is a big part
of why it works — an impressive feat as part of the film requires him (and Kim
his wife) to act beneath some less than successful old-age makeup — as he’s
onscreen throughout and delivers a driven performance as a man determined to do
whatever’s necessary. That drive takes Duk-soo to Germany as a miner and
Vietnam as an engineer before he manages to settle down in Busan, and the
globetrotting allows for mine disasters, gun fights with the Viet-Kong and a
spectacularly presented explosion.
Oddly, while Duk-soo
is the one making the ode to his lost father, we don’t get to know any of his
own children and their dialogue consists mostly of complaints without
personality. That child connection is ultimately unnecessary though as Duk-soo’s
story leaves plenty of room for familial drama. A sequence late in the film,
one based on real televised events from Korea in the early ’80s, is guaranteed
to lubricate your eyes.
This is big biography
the likes of which Hollywood rarely makes these days. The recent Unbroken tries, but it focuses
more on ideas and themes than on the man at its center. Here though we simply
have a man struggling like many before him and many after him, and it’s that
familiarity that makes his tale so much more compelling.
Read more at Film School Rejects: http://filmschoolrejects.com/reviews/black-november-ode-my-father-rec4-taking-tiger-mountain.php#ixzz3OfCFmqvF
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