Secret Sunshine (2007) (Milyang)

Secret Sunshine, or as its original title is: Milyang, is a movie by Chang-dong Lee that has received 7 awards, as well as the Cannes Festival Best Actress award for Do-yeon Jeon .

This is a good place to write in big capital letters:


The story is about a widow, Shin-Ae, that moves to Milyang (in South Korea) with her son to start a new life. Her husband was born there and always wanted to return to live there with their son. But Shin-Ae lost him in a car accident and wishes to fulfill his dream. She starts her own piano school and gets help, not always to her liking but nevertheless, from Jong-Chan, the car mechanic who came to her rescue when breaking down just as she was riding into the city.

Being from Seoul, she gets a bit of a rough time from the local people. Not really getting why she or anyone would move to Milyang. Some of the people, Shin-Ae just rubbed the wrong way at first contact. But she tries to blend in and make herself accepted. Looking for some land nearby to invest in and build a house, she makes contacts and goes out on prospects. Things are looking up…

One night, she comes home from a girls night out with some of the women she befriended and doesn’t find her son in his room. Thinking he’s playing games of hide and seek, she plays along but soon realizes something else is going on. The boy is gone. And the cell phone starts to ring…

This is without a doubt one of the best films I have seen in a while. I had no real expectations before seeing it, but if I would have, then they would have been surpassed with great leaps!

The suspense is nicely build, the story flows from event to event effortlessly and the evolution Shin-Ae goes through is put in a very convincing way.

Shin-Ae breaks down after losing her son and just keeps going into that downward spiral. She tries to sooth the pain or misplace her agony by turning to Christianity. When that happened, I really feared that the movie would derail into a religious, happy-miracle and happy-ending kind of story, but there-in lies the beauty of this movie. It is not the case, at all.

Shin-Ae is so immersed into her believe in God at a point where she convinces herself that she needs to see the man who harmed her boy, in prison, face to face. Because, as is said in the bible, you need to forgive your enemies for their sins and try to love them. This is the turning point though. The prisoner doesn’t need her forgiveness, nor her Christian love; for he found God in prison.

Again, the spiral from bliss to breakdown for Shin-Ae. Cause how dare God? How dare God forgive a man she hadn’t forgiven herself before him. Is that a just God, in Shin-Ae’s eyes?

So she tries to taunt God. To turn bad, to punish him by showing how she makes a mockery of him for all the pain she has had, and all the loved ones she’s lost. For the ordeals she had to go through? “Well look here,” she says, “look, I can cause pain too. Are you watching up there? Do you have a clear view?”, she says.

The awards are well-earned. And even if you don’t like foreign movies and reading subtitles, really, you will soon forget all those dislikes and be drawn to this story like a bee to sweet honey. You’ll be shocked as well, but nothing for nothing. The woman is in pain and that’s life. Life sometimes is pain, and usually caused by other people, unfortunately.


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