• Poetry
    2 minutes 54 seconds
    Added: Jan 13, 2011


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Poetry Reviews

Page 1 of 14
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

February 28, 2013
Poetry's greatest achievement is that is raises many question but avoids answering them, the downfall for many films but perfectly handled here. The disorder of life and of modern society in comparison to the old ways that aren't that much better and vice versa are studied so delicately and so subtly, the film is almost like Poetry itself. Everything good that happens and everything bad that happens it to a degree a matter of opinion but how we view the world and each other is key in this masterful tale by director Chang-dong Lee. Jeong-hie Yun's performance is tender and understated and is probably my favourite performances of the year, maybe even of all time.
Luke B

Super Reviewer

January 20, 2013
I hate it when I hear a movie is inspirational and then you realise it is really just an ass-kissing fest towards somebody who has done something that society deems great. Poetry is a truly inspirational film, one with a power that may change the way you look at the world. The film sees the return of actress Yun Jeong Hie, as a grandmother who joins a poetry class after she finds she is forgetting simple words. Things become complicated when her grandson is accused of raping a girl and she must raise some hush money for the victims family. It's a strong and unforgettable film that never slaps you about with how you should be feeling. The moments where the film examines poetry are enough to make you want to grab a pen and paper, or just stare at a tree. The performances are consistently amazing, capturing those heartbreaking situations without a huge song and dance. This is one of Lee Chang Dong's greatest achievements, and coming from the man who gave us Oasis, that is no small feat. Beautifully shot, contemplative, with a delicate tone about it. A film I wanted to instantly watch again.
Carlos M

Super Reviewer

April 3, 2012
An irregular, overlong drama that wants to discuss many subjects but gets lost among ideas that are not fully developed or well explored. It could have been better edited and focused more on the protagonist's fascination with poetry and inspiration.

Super Reviewer

January 11, 2012
It is hard to put in to words, but originally when I read the synopsis of this film I was very apprehensive. An ailing woman begins to take poetry classes while her grandson is caught up in up a event that could compromise his future. I assumed that this poetry class would awaken something inside her that would equip her for this trial in life. All the while serene and beautiful images float across the screen to delicate strings. Sweet but manipulative.
Well, I have to say I was wrong. Dead wrong.
In fact, for a film that SHOULD have been wrought with sentimentality, it was surprisingly austere. The film was adorned with very little music, and no fancy camera work. The woman's artistic journey is sincere and shows that even though you may be feeling the emotion, most people cannot translate that to the page. Oddly enough, as this woman continues to toil in her tragically poetic life, I found myself wanting to write the poetry for her. Every scene became a new stanza in my mind and I tried to make up for the protagonist's inability to capture the moment in words. Rather than create unexpected inspiration, Lee waits for understanding, which takes time. This isn't a film to rush through. It must unravel before you if you are to make any sense of her journey. They state in the film that to write poetry is to seek beauty, which I find Lee marvelously accomplishes.
Jan Marc M

Super Reviewer

October 9, 2011
Poetry courageously confronts sensitive themes with inspiration confused by an intrapersonal conflict that expounds on death, pain, and justice. Elegant and beautiful, Poetry is appropriately titled, with Chang-dong Lee of Secret Sunshine, creating a masterpiece that peacefully identifies with the complex consequences of a serious criminal offense. A valiant moral compass.

Super Reviewer

May 25, 2011
A Korean grandmother in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's takes a poetry class to fulfill a lifelong ambition. Dry, subtle character study that gains narrative drive from a slow-boil subplot about the suicide of a local girl; it's poetic indeed.
Bill D 2007
Bill D 2007

Super Reviewer

March 5, 2011
"Poetry," the new film from South Korea's Lee Chang-dong, should have been wonderful, but it is destroyed by a terrible editing job. Almost every scene is five times longer than necessary, creating a maddening feeling of languor, and extraneous material also clouds the focus of the film. There is a masterful, melancholy film somewhere deep inside the 100 or so hours that Mr. Lee shot for this project. But the editor had no idea how to whittle down the footage to find that film.

Bad editing is so common nowadays. Yet prominent critics never complain about it. We will only get better editing if we start demanding it. If critics remain silent, filmmakers will never know that there is a problem. This gives me a feeling of doom because there is no sign that top critics have noticed all the weak editing on movie screens today.

"Poetry" tells the story of a lower-middle-class, semi-educated grandmother who's been discarded by just about everybody in her life. Her teenage grandson has been left in her care in a tiny one-bedroom apartment for reasons that aren't explained. She tries to provide parenting, but the boy basically ignores her - just like everyone else does. Yun Jeong-hie, who was a big star in the 1970s, plays the grandmother in a gentle, slightly over-sweet way.

This lonely old woman has two main things going on in her life. She is taking a poetry class for the first time, trying to see life in new ways so that she can write her first poem. She has also just received news that her self-absorbed grandson has committed a horrific crime. She is given the opportunity to sweep the crime under the rug if she can come up with a huge sum of money. Even if she does decide to do this, there is the problem of coming up with the money. She is juggling several huge dilemmas when what she really wants to do is write a poem about birds, trees and flowers. One scene captures her denial particularly well. When she is first told about the crime, she goes into something like catatonic shock. Then she silently gets up right in the middle of the meeting when people are speaking, walks outside, and starts marveling at the flowers.

Struggles with denial, aging, loneliness, grand-parenting, and learning to see life in new ways toward the end of one's life is terrific subject matter. But it's almost too much. When a movie is in so many places, it's especially urgent that the editor know what he's doing. Sadly, that was not the case here. What we end up with is something like a rough draft of a masterful film, more than a finished product. Maybe in 10 years a brash young filmmaker can remake this film and do a better job. This is one film that is worth remaking.
Mark A

Super Reviewer

September 14, 2011
A quiet film depicting the hopes and dreams of an elderly woman in Korea, whose lazy, disrespectful grandson lives with her. This film captured the viewer's heart with its honesty and visually poetic scenes. Almost a tone poem in its presentation, it follows Mija (Jeong-hie Yun) as she tries to find some inspiration for writing poetry. No high drama here, no wild action sequences, or clever camera angles to distract from the beauty of the story as it unfolds in a most natural way. We come to care deeply about this woman who struggles to provide a home for her grandson while digesting two events that rock her world. In the end, she does what her sense of duty demands and in so doing creates beauty out of tragedy. The llead actress was drawn out of semi-retirement to be a part of this film and one has to wonder how much more beautiful our world would be if she hadn't waited so long. What a marvelous actor, at the top of her game.

Super Reviewer

March 13, 2011
In "Poetry," Mija(Jeong-hie Yun) is a 66 year-old grandmother who lives with her good-for-nothing teenaged grandson, Jongwook(Da-wit Lee), in a small city while his mother lives in Busan. Mija goes to the hospital because her arms are tingly and also reports that she has been forgetting words. The doctor is more concerned with her memory loss and recommends a complete check-up at a hospital in Seoul. With little else to occupy her life outside of taking care of Kang(Hira Kim), an elderly invalid, and her grandson, she signs up for a poetry class where the students are assigned to write a poem for the class. So, she definitely has time to meet some of the fathers of Jongwook's friends...

On the surace, "Poetry" is about the attempt to write a single poem which may seem like a slight subject for a feature film, but as the movie makes clear in its own leisurely way, creation is much harder than a single act of destruction. And this is a task made harder as Mija is in the process of losing the words necessary to express herself. For the record, poetry really is not about how you see the world(which changes for Mija throughout the movie, even as people always see her in the same way) and pretty flowers. It's about emotion.

The one thing that troubles me about "Poetry" is the possible blame laid at Mija's feet for her grandson's behavior since she seems to have little control over him, and therefore inferring that Jongwook badly needs a man in his life. However, his friends, who all seem to be from wealthier families, have fathers who are present in their lives. And since the movie is told entirely from Mija's perspective(she is almost never absent from the frame), we never find out if Jongwook is ring leader or just along for the ride.
John B

Super Reviewer

January 17, 2012
This film is poetry. Subtle gorgeous takes of the Korean countryside hide the vicious crime at the centre of the piece. A story of family and the hard decisions that one needs to take when family members are participants in unspeakable acts.
Grant B

Super Reviewer

February 3, 2011
Right from the beginning, this film wraps the viewer in beauty with conflict. Korean film director Lee Chang-Dong tells a beautiful story about an elderly woman who is beginning to suffer from Alzheimer's. Though aging, she is full of life and energy, and as words begin to escape her memory she decides to take a poetry class. Around the same time, the dead body of a middle school girl washes up in the river, and the story that connects these two distant lives feels real in this often cruel world that we share.
Very rarely do films capture age this accurately, and the result is a mesmerizing film with soul and passion.
The screenplay, written by the director, truly gives the lead actress the ability to flow into the role, and as a result, everything that she says and does feels true and honest. There are several moments of joy and happiness, and many moments of sorrow and loss, but thanks to great writing, the film feels balanced and whole.
Everything about this film, regardless of its South Korean setting, feels so tangible and relatable, and that's truly the mark of a great film.
"Poetry" doesn't answer everything, but it leaves a lasting impact and is an easy film to feel connected to as we all will eventually age. Truly a must-see.
August Seria
August Seria

Super Reviewer

April 19, 2011
Realistic and honest drama that greatly portrays realistic problems of life that we are too busy to see. Poetry brings us real drama topped with solid acting that really gives us something so captivating yet so sad.
Marcus W

Super Reviewer

January 23, 2014
Wonderfully subtle, undeniably powerful.

Super Reviewer

February 10, 2011
Lee Chang Dong is surely one of Korea's best director now a days, and I have seen Oasis and now Poetry, and both were captivating movies, keeping one attention from the beginning till the end. Poetry is definitely not for an average movie viewer, who maybe is looking for something entertaining. It was more an exploration of difficult human conditions that people might find a bit boring. But Poetry was meaningful and deep in its own way. It presented life realistically, and also some positive ways for finding relief within the worst conditions, in this case, the old lady looked for learning poetry. It can be misunderstood by some viewers but it is surely a movie that required effort to think and understand the movie for what it is. Once you can appreciate the purpose if it, it will become a wonderful movie for what it's worth. I was speechless.
July 13, 2012
Poetry (Chang-dong Lee, 2010)

Note: the following review could be construed as containing spoilers, despite this not being a movie where the term "spoiler" would have the least bit of relevance. If you don't want to know what happens, don't read on. (But then, if you don't want to know what happens, why are you reading a review?)

The supreme irony of Poetry, the fifth film from novelist Chang-dong Lee (Secret Sunshine, Oasis, et al.), is revealed in a scene about halfway through the film (reprised about three-quarters of the way through). Mija (Jeong-hie Yun, one of the most popular, and beautiful, Korean actresses of the sixties and seventies), our heroine, has been taking a poetry class, and is having trouble finding inspiration. She stumbles into a reading being held by a group called Love Poetry. Suffice to say the poems-which, unlike what you'd expect to find in an American poetry reading, are a mix of original authors' works, recitations of works from famous authors, and members of the audience reading one anothers' work-are atrocious. The notes Mija is jotting down towards the poem she is supposed to write during her class are more poetic than that.

We contrast this with a series of scenes from the class. The teacher, who the students see as a great poet (but we know from the very first flyer where Mija finds out about the class he's far more skilled at self-promotion than poetry, and his every word reinforces this), has asked the students to describe their most beautiful moment. There are three scenes like this, each of them with three of the nine students in the class. The first three are heartfelt, but shallow. When we get to the scene with the second batch, they are also heartfelt, but the stories we're told are a bit more intimate. Then we get to the last batch, and we know these three people are going to throw wide the doors to their souls and let us as deeply in as they can, because that's the way Lee has structured this sequence. And given the juxtaposition of this with the first paragraph, it should not surprise you when I tell you that when we finally get to Mija, the last of the students to speak, what she says is already laced with poetry. Don't get me wrong, all three of the stories in that last bit are well-told. But Lee understands the difference between good storytelling and poetry, and that one is possible without the other. That should be an indicator to you that, given the title of his film, Lee wasn't going to mess around with a movie that's nothing more than good storytelling.

Mija's trip to the poetry classes is not the crux of the story; in fact, it's not even the main thrust. That involves her grandson Wook (Da-Wit Lee in his first screen appearance) and five of the boy's friends. In the movie's opening shot, we see a number of small children playing along the banks of a large river. (Actually, we see much more than this, but I'm abbreviating in the service of brevity; I won't tell you why, but I will tell you to pay close attention to the sequence of shots Lee and cinematographer Hyun Seok Kim use to establish presence in the opening shot. When you get to the point in the movie where you need this info, you'll thank me.) One of them stops, noticing something coming towards him, and then the camera focuses on it; it is the body of a schoolgirl. Some of the audience I saw the film with seemed shocked at this; maybe they hadn't caught the early reviews? In any case, it is established early on that Wook and the five friends he hangs out with were directly responsible for the girl's death, and the actual plot of the film deals with the closest parents to each child-the fathers of the other five boys and Mija, who takes care of Wook after his mother got divorced and moved to the city-and their plans to buy off the mother of the dead girl in order to preserver their sons' futures. This, of course, requires money. And how is a sixty-six-year-old grandmother, whom, we're also told early on, is living on government assistance and the money she brings in from a part-time job as a caretaker to an old man who's suffered a stroke, supposed to come up with her share of the payoff money?

While the movie does have a plot, and I am willing to advance that as a good thing (though not entirely, for reasons we'll get to presently), it's pretty much unnecessary to one's enjoyment of the film, save that the events at the movie's undeniably powerful ending are linked to it. This would have been just as strong a film had it been a simple character study of Mija; her adversarial relationship to Wook (a dullard, a lump, the kind of kid who's far too lazy and stupid to get into any trouble on his own; we find out in the first scene that goes into this in any depth that Wook was, in fact, just a follower), her struggle to learn to write poetry, her interactions with the people she comes into contact with over the course of the story, including her belligerent, helpless charge and the father of one of the other boys involved. (Of that subset of characters, Mija is the only one named; the others are all referred to as [x]'s father. The one to which Mija grows potentially close is Kibum's father [R Point's Nae-sang Ahn, who previously worked with Lee in Oasis].)

And then, on the other hand, we have the plot, which Lee sometimes doesn't quite seem to know what to do with. He drops hints every once in a while about places the plot might go, such as the tentative friendship between Mija and Kibum's father, but none of those relationships ever really go anywhere. To be fair, this is also true of what looks like it could have been a comedic adversarial relationship Mija has with one of the women who lives on her street, so it's not all plot-based. Just most of it. When you reach the film's deliberately-paced climax, you get why Lee structured some of it in the way he did, but that makes it almost more disappointing; all of what you suspected about things that are there simply to advance the plot is correct, instead of those bits being as lively, and lovely, as the others. (Contrast, for example, Bela Tarr, whose characters in Werckmeister Harmonies are perfect little glissandos whether they're integral or not.) Still, when you see how everything falls together, you've got to hand it to Lee; he did some great setup there. This won't be any surprise to anyone who's been paying attention, however; there's nothing in this film that isn't artfully posed. My favorite example: the conversation Mija has with the nameless, blustery hospital official folowed some minutes later with the flowers in the dead girl's mother's courtyard. Especially note we are never told during the film what pink flowers signify.

With everything I said in the last paragraph, I was going to give them film a 3.5; it's excellent, and well worth seeing, but it does have some flaws. And then we got to that final shot, which is so completely amazing that I had to bump it up to four stars. The montage is so perfect that if you haven't read this, you might not even realize it's a montage (and you get bonus points if you figure out what Lee's doing before he gets to the middle shot of the montage). And then... well, that would be telling. I said at the beginning of this review that this is a movie where the word "spoiler" would have little meaning, but there is one exception to that rule, and it's the final shot. I think-I hope-I've given you enough to draw your attention to all the markers you will need to puzzle it out. I don't really understand why I would need to, since to me it was obvious what Lee was up to, but listening to the conversation around me as the audience I saw it with walked out, I was struck by how much was about the ambiguity of the ending, which wasn't ambiguous at all. But like most everything else about that, it doesn't matter. It's so beautifully executed that even if you have no idea what Lee is telling you in that final scene, you still have to marvel at the cinematography. Like the rest of the movie, it is enjoyable simply as a surface ride, but if you feel the need, you can dive into it and examine all the layers of meaning it holds. I would suggest either way of viewing Poetry is equally rewarding. ****
December 25, 2011
Balances lyricism and quiet with what should be an unbarable amount of off-screen unpleasantness. I didn't say I knew how to sell it.
August 4, 2014
The gradually accumulation of inspiration. The character that felt the world with its revolving emotions so profoundly. Dialogue-wise invisible, silent suffering of main characters that gives rise to true inspiration.
Nathan S.
July 19, 2014
Yun Junghee gives one of the best performances I have ever seen on screen. The film, itself, is so perfectly executed that it's impossible not consider it not only Chang-Dong Lee's best work, but also one of the best films of its genre.

April 27, 2014
Poetry is an emotionally devastating and heartbreaking drama. I can't remember the last time a film hit me as hard as Poetry did, but I'm glad it did, because Poetry is the kind of film that makes the viewer feel alive as it explores the complex realities of life so many dramas (Including some that I raved about) sugarcoat. It's a film that never offers easy answers to the situations the main character is put through, and how she struggles to come to terms with the terrible predicaments that turn her simple life upside down in the blink of an eye, and the film does it in a way that feels very real, which makes it such an intense experience.

The plot focuses on a 66-year-old woman named Mija who works part-time as a caregiver for an elderly man and raises her teenage grandson, who like many teenagers is lazy, doesn't really like authority, and spends a lot of his time hanging out with friends.

During this time, she is starting to suffer from memory loss, which is starting to cause concern for doctors as it is suspected she is in the early stages of Alzheimer's. She also wants to take a poetry class to help with her memory and also as a past time, which she manages to get into, much to her delight.

One day, Mija's world is turned upside down when a girl at her grandson's school commits suicide by jumping off a bridge. Upon investigating why the girl killed herself, her diary reveals that in the months before her suicide, she was being raped repeatedly by a group of boys, which just so happens to include Mija's grandson, who shows little remorse for his horrific deed.

On top of learning of her grandson's crime, doctors confirm that she does have Alzheimer's and must come to terms with the fact that her memory is going to get progressively worse as time goes by.

On top of that, the fathers of the other boys involved with the crime are trying to settle with the dead girl's mother, so that their sons' futures are not destroyed, and they want Mija to pay her part of the settlement, which she can't afford. However, it is not only the matter of not being able to afford it, but also she struggles as to how to handle her grandson, whether or not to let him pay for his crime, or let him have his future despite destroying the life of another person.

The only distraction she has away from the complex moral dilemmas is the poetry class as she tries to figure out how to write a poem, which is the only assignment for the class during the semester, but she must figure out what poetry truly is before she can write the poem.

With her life falling apart, her grandson's future up in the air, the tremendous guilt over the dead girl and her grandson's crime, and trying to find out what poetry truly is, Mija must go on a soul-searching journey through the complexities of life and moral dilemmas.

While some may find the story has too many elements, I disagree completely. Poetry's plot takes all these elements and expertly balances them all out. Not only that, but Poetry never feels sappy, melodramatic, or cheesy because every part of it feels real and makes the viewer truly ponder what they would do when faced with so many tough life decisions (Don't think you would solve such issues so quickly, as Poetry presents them in a way that makes you think twice). Every emotion is real, every situation is down to Earth, and nothing is easy to fix. With these elements contained within the plot, Poetry is certainly not something you can forget even if you were to only see it once in your life, but it will stay with you forever.

The acting is also incredible, especially from Yun Junghee as Mija. Her performance was never anything bombastic or overwrought, but it was powerful through how she quietly conveyed her emotions. Even during the quiet scenes of reflection, she makes you believe in her performance and she commands the screen with ease. The other cast members are also top notch, even in minor roles, but Yun Junghee is the shining star in a group of greats and her performance is not something that can ever be forgotten. It's easily among the greatest film performances I've ever seen, and I've seen many great performances.

Poetry has a superb story that expertly explores complex situations, characters who are not only fleshed out, but also feel very real, amazing acting, beautiful direction, stunning visuals, terrific music, and emotions that will hit at the very core of your soul because of their tremendous impact. It's something that will make you feel alive as you travel on an emotionally complex journey with the character and feel everything that she does. You will be absorbed and you will feel everything. It's truly one of the greatest dramas not only of a generation, but it should be among the all-time greats of film history itself. It's something that you can't just watch, but it will make you feel like you are a part of the experience that it offers. No true fan of drama should ever miss out on this film, or even lovers of film as a whole and my words will never properly describe the mesmeric experience of watching Poetry. Watch it, and watch it immediately.
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