This glowing, unsentimental tribute to the sanity and grace of an elderly woman (the wonderful Yun Jung-hee) tested by the viciousness of her wild grandson was clearly the most universally loved film at Cannes this year.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2010
“The South Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong uses reserve to tremendous effect. Mr Lee’s latest, centers on Mija, a grandmother raising her only grandchild, a teenage boy, in a small city. At first, this seemingly simple story concentrates on Mija’s daily habits, her visits to her doctor, her relations with her grandson, her poignant vanity. One day she decides to take a poetry writing course, a decision that, as the tale takes a violent turn, becomes our entry into a woman who’s far richer than her fussy habits and humble words suggest. With an understated visual style and perfectly paced narrative, Mr Lee has created a portrait of a woman who has, by the end, become an extraordinary vision of human empathy.” — Manohla Dargis, NY Times
“The real poetry in Lee Chang-dong’s terrific and devastating fifth feature (following Secret Sunshine, NZIFF08) is in how little justice mere words do to convey how intelligent and sweetly profound this leisurely, potentially cheerless narrative becomes as a cinematic experience… We witness the subtle empowerment of a woman with an otherwise fading presence (her looks, her memory, her relevance) in a man’s world, hinged on Yun’s warmly empathetic if not downright revelatory performance. Never wallowing in melodrama and at times funnier than it seems on the outside, Poetry is as evocatively colorful and difficult to define as its lofty title.” — Aaron Hillis, Moving Pictures