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  Flower Island  

Three women find solace in Flower Island
  Year: 2001  
  Director: Song Il-gon  
  Cast: Suh Joo-hee, Im Yoo-jin, Kim Hye-na  
  The Skinny: From shocking and sad to funny and beautiful, from tears to laughter, from bleak reality to poetic fantasy; Song Il-gon enters Korean Cinema with a bang after a few acclaimed short films (Liver and Potato and The Picnic). Time will tell if his impact will be as powerful as Hur Jin-ho's first feature (Christmas in August), but Flower Island promises great things for the future of Cinema in Korea, and even the World.  
by LunaSea:
      There's something really impressive about this film in the emotional impact of its characters and the strangely enchanting pace. It's like a fairy tale which slowly lets real life enter into it. Like in Shinji Aoyama's Eureka, nothing happens in a conventional way, but the mood, the performances, the soundtrack and cinematography hit you more than any word or plot development could.
      Three tragedies bring together a trio of women. One is a teenage rape victim who decides to let her newborn child die in a dirty public bathroom. Another is a twenty-something Opera singer who learns that she has a form of cancer which will require her tongue to be removed. And the third is a woman in her thirties, who loses home and family while trying to buy a piano for her daughter - by prostituting herself. All three meet by accident, and their destinations are different. However, they will all arrive at Flower Island, which will help them overcome their sorrow, give them hope and cement their friendship. 

       The main strength of Flower Island is the characterization. Every person we meet feels real, from the profane truck driver that gives the girls a lift, to the gay couple who are debating what name to give their band, and are having problems accepting their sexuality. Even simple scenes gain emotional resonance because of their subtlety. There isn't a single moment which feels manipulative because the characters' pain is something we could all feel. The leading trio is remarkable, each giving a really strong performance that helps underline the feeling that they're different people coming from different worlds, but at heart, they're all feeling the same thing: pain and sorrow. Even the supporting cast is excellent. This is really a great ensemble cast, where the secondary characters don't offset the major ones, but leave a mark on you because they're so well drawn.

        Beyond that, explaining the charm of Flower Island is difficult. It's a film that will either hit you strongly or leave you apathetic. It's one of those lyrical and poetic films, like Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas or Hur Jin-ho's Christmas in August, where mood and character are more important than story. The atmosphere becomes an additional character, and the soundtrack is so important that the film would suffer without it. These are films about the importance of life, the effect of human contact on lonely people, and coping with life and death. Beyond its slow road movie-ish pace and unconventional characters, this is a very important work. It establishes Song Il-gon as another interesting director to come out of Korea, and introduces us to a cast of relatively unknown performers that hopefully will get bigger roles. It also confirms that short film is producing the best things (directly and indirectly) of the last few years. (LunaSea 2002)
Notes: The film won the New Currents Award, the FIPRESCI Award and the PSB Audience Award at the 2001 Pusan Festival.

DVD (Korea)
Region 0 NTSC
SRE Corporation
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English Subtitles
45 Minutes Making of Documentary, interviews with director and cast


image credit: Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen