My Heart (2000)

May 29, 2003 • Film, Reviews

Directed by Bae Chang-ho

Certain religions pray to God not to be born a woman. After watching My Heart, I can understand why. Life as a woman in Korea during the 1920’s sucked mightily. The story begins with 16-year old Soonie being married off to an 11-year old boy who is revered as a god by the family instead of the obnoxious little twit he is. However, this is nothing compared to the dragon mother-in-law our heroine gains, a psycho who delights in making Soonie’s life a living hell.

Years of martyrdom pass (thankfully rather shortly for us). Soonie’s child-groom becomes a man, but remains an obnoxious twit. Through him, Soonie inadvertently learns what love is and because of this decides to leave her home and make her own way in the world. This film follows her story over a 30-year span as she tries first to survive life and then to endure it, experiencing prosperity, loneliness, marriage, starvation, motherhood and old age.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this movie. It is the very definition of “a good cry.” At the end I felt simultaneously happy, sad, and completely satisfied. It’s a simple story that evokes a floodgate of emotions. Somehow this film gets at the heart of what it is to live life. Dramas often drown you in unrelenting grimness. Comedies are often unrealistic fantasies. My Heart is more true to life, reflecting the sweetness, hard work, little pleasures and unacceptable losses that life brings to all of us (though some more than others — I’ll never complain again).

A large part of the movie’s success is due to Kim, Yu-mi, the director’s wife and the co-scriptor, who plays the extraordinary role of Soonie, who goes from cowed bride to feisty granny in the span of one movie. Her uncomplaining acceptance of life completely wins you over. Kim Myung-gon, the father from Sopyonge plays a delightful potter, her husband.

Apparently this film did not do well in Korea. It’s hard to understand why. This is a wonderful movie; I recommend it without reservation.

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