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My Father
My Father

Jeon Moo-Song (right) plays the honorable father of Yook Se-Jin (left) in My Father.


Year: 2009  

Bae Hae-Seong


Bae Hae-Seong

  Cast: Jeon Moo-Son, Park Cheol-Min, Park Tam-Hee, Jo Moon-Gook, Yook Se-Jin, Lee Byung-Cheol, Jeon Jeong-Hee, Kim Ha-Ram, Sin Do-Hyung, Im Hye-Jin, Kwak Joo-Eon, Jeon Hee-Seon
  The Skinny: The father-son drama is pleasant and light. However, Bae Hae-Seong’s debut feature tries to include too many elements into a story that’s too thin to support them, resulting in a blurred focus.
Kevin Ma:

Fatherly love and nostalgia make for a bland mix in My Father, another Korean melodrama about gentle village life in the good old days. In addition to the typical stern father who learns the error of his ways, Bae Hae-Seong’s feature film debut also throws in a radical political activist, a sprinkle of political oppression, a touch of social activism, and even a big tablespoon of schoolyard comedy. However, Bae tries to do too little with too much, and as pleasantly entertaining as the result is, it doesn’t leave much of an impression.

The problem with My Father is the lack of focus in its storytelling. It starts off in a rural Korean village school, concentrating on the relationship between idealistic teacher Bong-Dal (Park Cheol-Min, looking like the Korean Jim Chim) and his ragtag group of young students. Wanting to get his students involved in social issues, he decides to put together a play about village farmers and even invites old friend Mi-Ran (Park Tam-Hee) from Seoul to teach the kids acting. Bong-Dal is also among a group of young intellectuals in the village that discusses issues like class inequality and the unfair economic policies of the government, which could easily get them branded as Communists.

The most radical of the group is Gi-Dong, whose younger brother Gi-Soo is Bong-Dal’s best student and looks to follow his brother as an aspiring intellectual. However, they’re often scolded by their father (Jeon Moo-Song), who believes that his sons are better off spending their time at the farm to help pay off the family debt instead of wasting their time studying more than farmers need to know. When tragedy finally strikes, the kids will learn to band together and finish the play for Bong-Dal. And of course, the play will change the relationship between Gi-Soo and his father forever.

With its classical TV-like storytelling and visual techniques (at one point, one character’s floating head even appears to inspire the young hero), My Father can easily be mistaken for a melodrama made in the 80s. Bae sometimes succeeds in his intention to please, as a clichéd group of lovable, young misfits always charms the audience. Also, the film’s unassuming nature makes it all the more pleasant to watch. However, Bae also lacks the thematic ambition to tell a stronger story with heavier themes, simply opting for a bigger story with too many characters, blurring the intended focus of the story.

Audiences would expect a film named My Father to be about the relationship between a father and his son, and while it is finally emphasized at the end of the film, Bae seems too in love with his side characters to leave them out of focus for too long. The result is that instead of a film filled with flesh-and-blood characters worth remembering, we get stereotypes like the loud villager, the town maniac, and the tough-but-soft-hearted father. The cast’s uneven performances don’t help much either, but the blame for the weak characterization ultimately remains with Bae and his simplistic script.

My Father should strike more of a chord with a local Korean audience than a foreign one. Nostalgia is always a hard genre to sell beyond national and/or cultural borders, and Bae doesn’t seem to be working very hard to do so; at no point does the film explicitly indicate where or when it takes place, with Bae expecting his audience to get into the story based on the simple explanations his characters offer. As charming and light as My Father is, both foreign and Korean audiences may find it too mild for their tastes. My Father is ultimately like a cracker – it’s bland, doesn’t offer much nutrition, and you may even forget that you’ve eaten it afterwards. But at least it’s satisfying the moment you take it in. (Kevin Ma, 2009)


• Despite having the same English title, this film has nothing to do with the My Father starring Daniel Henney. Sorry to disappoint.


DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
Cineall Network
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Original Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean Subtitles

  Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen