Friday, July 3, 2015

Film Review: Ode To My Father (2014)

Ode To My Father (Review)
Yoon Je-kyoon/Hwang Jung-min/2014
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"Despite its flaws, the film is extremely effective."

The story of Yoon Deok-soo (Hwang Jung-min), whom, during the Korean War, is given the title of "the man of the house" as a young boy.

Ode To My Father is like a puzzle with missing pieces. We have enough pieces to make some clear images, but some of the bridges and gaps are missing. In other words, Ode To My Father goes over certain significant events of Yoon Deok-soo — from a child in the Korean War to an elderly man with a happy family. Deok-soo lives through the Korean War in poverty, travels to Germany in the 60s to become a miner and earn money for his family, and enters the Vietnam War on business. All of his sacrificial actions come from his promise to his father — take care of the family until he returns. It leads to a simple yet effective ending.

Ode To My Father isn't a perfect film. There are some minor issues and even some significant flaws — many of which will depend on the type of viewer. Firstly, like Haeundae, this film is definitely melodramatic. Some people don't like this style, but it didn't bother me; in fact, I thought the melodramatics worked well this time around. Secondly, the narrative doesn't really have a motive. As a plot, the film actually doesn't have anything to keep it moving. It's a movie about Yoon Deok-soo, but it doesn't have a plot device or reason. It's main focus is Deok-soo as an elder with flashbacks seamlessly transitioning into the past, but for no reason. Deok-soo isn't reminiscing or recounting his story to his grandchildren, or anything like that, which made me wonder: why exactly are we watching Deok-soo's story?

And, as I said, this isn't Deok-soo's complete story. It really only covers significant events in Korean history. Of course, Deok-soo is Korean, but this gives the plot less leverage. It interlocks Deok-soo into a set of specific events, which also hinders his character — a little. In fact, we actually see more changes in Dal-goo (Oh Dal-soo), Deok-soo's lifetime friend, then we do Deok-soo. The flashbacks stop when Deok-soo is still fairly young, which left me wondering about the huge gap it skips. Did his struggles suddenly stop? It's a piece of the puzzle I wish I had.

Yet, I couldn't help but feel — just feel. Despite its flaws, the film is extremely effective. Sure, it's melodramatic, but this lifetime of sacrifices hits hard. I'm not going to lie, I choked up a handful of times, especially during the latter half of the film. I laughed out loud at least a handful of times. There are so many devastating and heartwarming events, there's seldom a dull or uneventful moment. Even if it was fabricated or undeserved, the emotional value hooked me from beginning to end. Even without sharing these specific events, the film made me reflect on my grandparents in a similar manner. Although the film may not have had a sturdy plot device or reason, it certainly accomplished its goal.

Although many of the set pieces rely on melodrama, Hwang Jung-min delivers a powerful and grounded performance throughout the years; his character may be boxed into specific events, but Jung-min excels and gives his character human, relatable life. As usual, Oh Dal-su delivers with his quirky humor. The entire supporting cast was strong. There are a few English-speaking actors that stick out like a sore thumb, though, especially towards the beginning. The film looked and sounded great. It has blockbuster qualities, including the special effects and makeup — the latter proven by Hwang Jung-min great transformation. Yoon Je-kyoon, who also directed Haeundae (aka Tidal Wave), is a strong director. His vision of this epic life story is wondrous, even if there are some missing pieces. Although he's still reliant on melodrama, I think Je-kyoon was more than effective in telling this story, even if it's missing a reason. (Maybe patriotism is reason enough?)

Overall, Ode To My Father is a very good film. It may sound like I despised it earlier in this review, but I actually thoroughly enjoyed it — which I hoped I conveyed well. It has its fair share of flaws, but it is ultimately very entertaining and effective. I laughed, I (almost) cried, and I had a wonderful time. If you don't mind melodrama (or if you liked Haeundae, which I thought was great) and you're looking for something emotional, I think you'll enjoy Ode To My Father.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, some partial nudity.

No comments:

Post a Comment