A recently widowed woman (Jeon Do-yeon) leaves Seoul to start over in the provincial town where her husband was born. This 2007 feature by Lee Chang-dong (Oasis) begins as a quiet drama about mourning but grows steadily darker and more complicated, its unpredictable plot touching on religious fanaticism, mental illness, and even murder. Lee manages all this with surprising evenhandedness, using long takes and understated compositions that emerge organically from the rich characterizations. Song Kang-ho, a comic presence in Bong Joon-ho's Memories of Murder and The Host, is heartbreaking here as the woman's timid suitor; indeed, the characters' failings are realized as precisely as their virtues, and this warts-and-all approach challenges the limits of our empathy. In Korean with subtitles.
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