Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: Goodbye Mom (aka Aeja) (2009)

Goodbye Mom (aka Aeja) (Review)
Jeong Ki-Hun/Choi Gang-Hee/2009
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"A magnificent performance from Kim Young-ae..."

The relationship between daughter, Aeja (Choi Gang-hee), and mother, Young-hee (Kim Young-ae), is tested when Young-hee's illness returns...

Goodbye Mom starts with Aeja in high school, which gives us a very brief look at her young character and her relationship with her mother. Fast forward ten years, Aeja is very much the same, but hasn't accomplished much. She returns home for her bother's marriage, and, eventually, her mother collapses. Now, Aeja and Young-hee have always had a tough relationship, but the illness will test it. They bicker and argue, but they bond. The film's introduction and first act don't build up much, but the film gets more emotional as it progresses. And, this is proven by the deep ending -- definitely an ending that will either make you call your mother or reminisce, or at least think about a significant loved one.

Like I said, Goodbye Mom doesn't have a very effective introduction. In fact, the high school segment as a whole doesn't really do much for me, in this case. Furthermore, the first act of the film has a strong focus on Aeja, who really isn't likable on her own -- I know it's her character, and I definitely don't hate it, but she comes off as too arrogant and obnoxious. Also, a lot of the humor surrounding Aeja seems forced -- it's just comes off as unnatural and bland. But, notice I said "on her own." Fortunately, as the film progresses, Aeja and her mother, Young-hee, spend more time together, and they're the perfect pair. Young-hee is feisty, witty, and charming and, most importantly, hilarious. Young-hee as a character can float on her own, where as Aeja seems to sink with the forced humor.

The first act is tolerable, though -- it's disappointing, but not something you'll have to fight to get through. The rest of the film is a great blend of humor and drama. As long as Young-hee and Aeja share the screen, there will be genuine humor and chemistry as well as emotional drama. The characters have some depth, but the relationship is really what shines; the way Aeja and Young-hee interact seems natural -- like a real mother-daughter relationship. And that's what redeems the film, that's what makes the effective and even thought-provoking finale.

Choi Gang-hee is very good at playing the arrogant daughter as an adult. However, she's out of place during the high school introduction -- she looks and sounds much too old for that segment. A magnificent performance from Kim Young-ae, though. She's very charismatic and likable. Otherwise, the film is about standard on the technical side. The music is sentimental, the film is shot competently, and so on. The English subtitles on the Amazon Instant Video stream are great -- some small errors, but not detrimental. Director and writer Jeong Ki-hun does well in blending the drama and humor as the film progresses, but it's often heavy-handed; aside from the pacing and some character issues, Ki-hun does well as director.

Overall, Goodbye Mom has a rough introduction, but redeems itself as the film progresses. Although some of the humor feels forced and unnatural, the mother-daughter relationship feels genuine and the
drama is effective. Well worth watching for fans of coming-of-age dramas, or those looking for something emotional.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some blood.

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