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Secret Sunshine (2010)



Average Rating: 7.7/10
Reviews Counted: 29
Fresh: 27 | Rotten: 2

Plumbing the depths of tragedy without succuming to melodrama, Chang-dong Lee's Secret Sunshine is a grueling, albeit moving, piece of beautifully acted cinema.


Average Rating: 7.3/10
Critic Reviews: 9
Fresh: 8 | Rotten: 1

Plumbing the depths of tragedy without succuming to melodrama, Chang-dong Lee's Secret Sunshine is a grueling, albeit moving, piece of beautifully acted cinema.



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Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 4,328

My Rating

Movie Info

In this somber Korean drama, a young mother and widow, Shin-ae, moves with her young son, Jun, from Seoul to a small town called Miryang following her husband's death. Having given up on her career as a concert pianist when she married her husband, she starts up a piano school, but soon it begins to feel like the polite people who inhabit her new home aren't as friendly as they seem on the surface. Judgmental whispers and disapproving gossip begin to reach Shin-ae's ears, and pressure to join

Aug 23, 2011

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All Critics (29) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (27) | Rotten (2) | DVD (3)

There is a natural tendency to appreciate movies that are neat and concise. "Secret Sunshine" makes a striking argument for the antithesis.

February 3, 2011 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The cinematic equivalent of prose that is clear, elegant and lyrical.

December 22, 2010 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
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Buried in the year-end rush but one of the year's best films.

December 21, 2010 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
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Secret Sunshine is a frequently beautiful film with a cold, dark heart.

December 21, 2010 Full Review Source: AV Club
AV Club
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A secular hymn to the small triumphs and cavernous tragedies of the everyday, and to our awesome ability to cope.

December 6, 2007 Full Review Source: L.A. Weekly
L.A. Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This exploration of grief in contemporary South Korea plods along adequately and intelligently.

October 20, 2007 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The amount of tragedy delivered by this story would feel abusive if a lesser talent was at its center.

November 6, 2013 Full Review Source: LarsenOnFilm

It quickly dawns as to why Jeon won so many awards for this performance...

September 8, 2013 Full Review Source: Trespass

In a performance as raw and naked as I can recall seeing, Jeon navigates the ebbs and flows of Shin-ae's grief.

February 4, 2011 Full Review Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul Pioneer Press

Superbly observed study of a woman's tortured spiritual odyssey, filled with honest drama, unexpected humor and brilliant revelations.

December 29, 2010 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

a wrenching, darkly comic and immersive work

December 23, 2010 Full Review Source:

It doesn't touch the heart as much as it thinks it does.

December 23, 2010 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Profoundly moving, intelligent and unflinching. It boasts a brave, emotionally devastating performance by Jeon Do-yeon.

December 22, 2010 Full Review Source: NYC Movie Guru
NYC Movie Guru

Brilliantly written, acted and directed, this is a work that evokes the Russian novel despite being a Korean film. Treats larger questions of life and death in the serious manner that they deserve.

December 21, 2010 Full Review Source:

[S]low portrait of damaged woman struggling against community expectations reveals universality [in] extraordinary Do-yeon who dramatically shifts gears again [and again].

December 21, 2010 Full Review Source:

An exemplary examination of coping that expands to entail questions of morality, absolution and faith.

December 5, 2010 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

It is unlikely you are going to see a more palpable portrayal of grief this year than Jeon Do-yeon's magnificent perfomance as Shin-ae in this Korean drama of the heart.

December 7, 2007 Full Review Source: Eye for Film
Eye for Film

Perfect for those wishing to enjoy a nice traumatizing time at the movies.

November 13, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

Can a movie traumatize you in a good way?

October 17, 2007 Full Review Source:

Even as the film piles awkwardness and suffering upon its character, it never feels exploitative or emotionally manipulative, maintaining a restrained tone entirely devoid of melodrama.

October 9, 2007 Full Review Source: Not Coming to a Theater Near You
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

Audience Reviews for Secret Sunshine

A brave exploration of grief and the process of forgiveness. We all know those people who seem to attract tragedy. We read about them in the paper or hear about them through a family friend. In yet another great film by director Lee Chang Dong, we are given insight into the lives of one of these perpetual victims. It follows the plight of a young woman as she attempts to move forward in the face of her world collapsing around her.
This study of the grieving process, made possible by the phenomenal performance by Jeon Do-yeon, isn't just an opportunity to go hog wild with gut-wrenching speeches and tears, but is one of the more honest approaches I have seen in a long time. With this, comes its share of risks.
For example, It is risky to take a woman, whom the audience feels so much sympathy for, and through the recovery process alienate her so much from the audience. It is hard to understand why she does what she does. but we get the sense that we cannot possibly even begin to understand what she is going through.
Sometimes there are no tears and as comforting as faith can be for others, it isn't immediate enough to snub out the pain that is sometimes scraping your very nerve and at other times leaving you completely numb. Also, that same faith that can be freeing to many, can be used by others as a more subtle tool of control.
Maybe I'm just biased due to my love for Korean cinema, but I feel like South Koreans are able to take a more honest look in the mirror than I think most are willing to allow. There is a hell of a lot more to chew on in this one film than the past 20 domestic films I have watched. And for that, I give it a lot of credit.
It isn't a pleasant watch, but one that is definitely worth your time.
January 24, 2012
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

Grieves with sorrow and shines with faith, Secret Sunshine ponders on spiritual maturity and recovery of a woman tormented by loss. Starring 2007 Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Jeon Do-Yeon. Argumentative. Complex. Magnificent.
September 9, 2011
Jan Marc Macababayao

Super Reviewer

Another good Korean film (aren't they always good?! I honestly can't think of too many I haven't liked.. not that I have seen lots, but anyhow....).
Though this is mainly a sad story about loss, (Shin-ae moves to her deceased husband's hometown in memory of him with their small son. Not long after, her son is kidnapped and drowned), it also manages to be quite funny in places. Quite an achievement considering the subject matter!
Well acted, well paced - at over 2 hours long it doesn't wear out it's welcome as you might expect. I was really impressed with the actress who plays Shin-ae (Jeon Do-yeon).
March 13, 2011

Super Reviewer

The first and most striking aspect of this film are the visuals. The bright, golden, crisp glow of this film is almost heavenly. Not a bad choice considering the religious themes tackled. Chang-dong adds another exquisite film to his portfolio even if it is a tad harder to like than his previous efforts. It certainly zips by with a well paced story that isn't afraid of not giving any definite answers, much like religion itself. Forgiveness isn't something that comes naturally, nor is it easy. Unlike most films Secret Sunshine refuses to patronize it's audience. It presents a story and there are limitless views that can be taken which is possibly a sign of great art.
June 10, 2008

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Secret Sunshine (DE)
  • Secret Sunshine (Milyang) (UK)
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