'My Love, Don't Cross That River': Film Review
Mo-Young Jin's documentary, a box-office blockbuster in Korea, profiles an elderly couple who have been married for 76 years.
If you're able to watch Moyoung Jin's documentary about the day-to-day life of an elderly Korean couple without both laughing and crying, you're not someone I wish to meet. This deeply moving portrait about the enduring love between two people who have been married for 76 years has become the highest-grossing independent film of all time in its native South Korea, and it's not hard to see why audiences have responded so enthusiastically. Serving as a gentle reminder that enduring love is still possible, My Love, Don't Cross That River is practically the cinematic equivalent of marriage counseling.
The filmmaker spent 15 months documenting the lives of his subjects, 98-year-old Byong-man Jo and his wife, 89-year-old Gye-yeul Kang, who live in a modest home near a river that gives the title its metaphor. Their undimmed affection for each other is palpable from first moment to last, as is their seemingly eternal youthfulness and playfulness. In the film's early section, they're seen having a snowball fight, gleefully splashing and throwing leaves at each other. The secret to a happy marriage, it seems, is behaving like perpetual adolescents.
They also display a cheerful acceptance of their advanced ages. "Time passes, people get old. There's nothing you can do about it," Jo comments. When he adds that he intends to live to be 100, his wife cheekily inquires, "Who's going to cook for you?"
The doc includes such episodes as the couple's dog giving birth to six puppies, and a family dinner with several of their grown children that demonstrates that the relationships are not totally harmonious. But things take a far more serious turn in the second half, when Jo turns gravely ill and Kang is faced with his impending demise. As part of her preparations, she burns pairs of long johns she has recently purchased for her six children who died in infancy, so they'll be able to wear them in the afterlife when they're reunited with their father.
It would be naïve to think that the filmmaker hadn't indulged in cinematic manipulation to achieve the desired emotional effect at times. But any such reservations have dissipated by the heart-wrenching climactic scene in which Kang expresses her grief in primal fashion.
Distributor: Film Movement
Production: Argus Film
Director-screenwriter-director of photography: Mo-Young Jin
Producer: Kyung-soo Han
Editor: Jin-sik Hyun
Composer: Min-woo Jeong
Not rated, 86 minutes