The Way Home

Korea is a really diverse place if one looks at it from the few movies from that country that make it here. They could not be a more diverse bunch. Chunhyang was a traditional costume drama, Nowhere to Hide and Shiri were violent, action movies, and now The Way Home is a emotional tear-jerker. It is the type of film that strives for cuteness, so much so that at times it seems emotionally manipulative. It is a pleasing film, but would be much better if it had much more originality, but it still doesn't mean that one cannot enjoy The Way Home. It has a simplistic yet universally appealing story, one that people everywhere can easily relate to.

It its heart, it is a story about unconditional familial love. Sang-Woo (Yu Sueng-Ho), a young spoiled boy from the city, goes to live with his grandmother (Kim Eul-Bun). Sang-Woo is a child of the city. He loves hamburgers, Kentucky Fried Chicken, his portable game console, rollerblades, and everything else a little materialistic brat could love. His grandmother lives a life that is the antithesis of what he knows. There is little if no electricity, no restaurants, just a small house and lots of nothing. Naturally, Sang-Woo hates this and lashes out at his grandmother, who is mute. She is not deaf, which makes it all the worse when Sang-Woo verbally berates her.

His grandmother shows nothing but love for Sang-Woo. He throws her food on the ground and she picks it right up. He demands something and she does her best to get it for him. She cooks, cleans and cares for him while he yells, cries, and acts like a jerk. All this love goes a long way, and before he knows it, Sang-Woo's attitude is changing towards his grandmother. This is exactly the point where writer/director Lee Jeong-Hyang (Art Museum by the Zoo) wants to turn on the waterworks. She does a manageable job of it, but never quite excels to the level necessary to make a really good film. There is not much to the story, so even at its short length it still feels a little padded. That, and Sang-Woo is sometimes too much of a brat for audiences to want him to change. Instead, he deserves a stern spanking from somebody.

The production notes state that Kim had never even seen a movie before The Way Home. Her acting is very naturalistic and appealing, and she seems like the epitome of what a grandmother should be. Because her character is mute, she must rely on gestures and other nonverbal methods of communications to get her message across. Yu is the typical child actor. He does what is necessary for the role without being too annoying on screen. It's the script here that becomes a little tiresome. Everybody knows what is going to happen, it's just a matter of waiting and seeing what exactly it is that causes Sang-Woo to cross over.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 20 minutes, Korean with English subtitles, Rated PG for mild thematic elements and language.

Back to Movies