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Opening Date
16 May 2019
120 mins
Korean with Chinese subtitles
Lee Jong-Eon
Sol Kyung-Gu, Jeon Do-Yeon, Yoon Chan-Young, Kwon So-Hyun
After April 2014… A story of those left behind Jung-il (SUL Kyung-gu) and Soon-nam (JEON Do-yeon) miss their son, Su-ho, who passed away in a terrible accident. His family’s longing for him only gets bigger as his birthday approaches. Su-ho’s birthday without Su-ho… Family and friends plan to gather and present their special memories of him as gifts. One day a year, where we all come together for you… “We will never forget you.” 
By Say Peng  03 May 2019
A sensitive and subtle examination of parental grief, ‘Birthday’ heralds director Lee Jong-eon as an emerging talent.
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On the morning of 16 April 2014, the South Korean vehicle-passenger ferry MV Sewol sank, bringing with it 300 passengers and crew members. The incident sparked widespread social and political reaction in South Korea. But in his debut film, ‘Birthday’, director Lee Jong-eon is less interested in the political and more invested in the personal.

Set three years after the incident, Lee’s film follows Soon-nam (Jeon Do-yeon) as she continues to painfully struggle with the death of her eldest teenage son Su-ho. Soon-nam has also separated from her absent husband Jung-il (Sul Kyung-gu). But near the anniversary of the Sewol incident as well as Su-ho’s birthday, Jung-il returns from Vietnam where he’s been at work. His return is not welcomed by Soon-nam. His young daughter Ye-sol is also wary of her father whom she’s seldom seen.

As the anniversary and Su-ho’s birthday approach, Soon-nam and Jung-il’s fundamental conflict about how they should move on with their lives (or not) heatedly bubbles to the surface, reaching boiling point. Jung-il prefers to work with the community, specifically a group of parents who have also lost their children in the incident; whereas Soon-nam chooses to alienate herself from her friends and grief in isolation in Su-ho’s room where his things are left untouched.

The stand-out of the film is undoubtedly Jeon’s immense performance. Jeon is no stranger to the role of the grieving mother. She has played one in Lee Chang-dong’s ‘Secret Sunshine’. Whereas Jeon had no children of her own when she acted in ‘Secret Sunshine’, Jeon was and is a mother of a ten-year-old when she filmed ‘Birthday’. This might have imbued Jeon’s performance with an empathy that only mothers understand. We can feel it, especially in two key emotional scenes.

A sensitive and subtle examination of parental grief, ‘Birthday’ heralds director Lee Jong-eon as an emerging talent.
read less
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