February 11th, 2011



No valid json found

Still of Jeong-hie Yun in PoetryStill of Jeong-hie Yun in PoetryJeong-hie Yun in PoetryJeong-hie Yun and Da-wit Lee in PoetryStill of Jeong-hie Yun in PoetryChang-dong Lee and Jeong-hie Yun in Poetry

A sixty-something woman, faced with the discovery of a heinous family crime and in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, finds strength and purpose when she enrolls in a poetry class.

Release Year: 2010

Rating: 7.7/10 (2,654 voted)

Critic's Score: 89/100

Director: Chang-dong Lee

Stars: Jeong-hie Yun, Da-wit Lee, Hira Kim

A sixty-something woman, faced with the discovery of a heinous family crime and in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, finds strength and purpose when she enrolls in a poetry class.

Jeong-hie Yun - Mija
Da-wit Lee - Jongwook
Hira Kim - M. Kang
Nae-sang Ahn - Kibum's father
Myeong-shin Park - Heejin's mother
Yong-taek Kim -


Official Website: Official site [France] | Official site [Japan] |

Release Date: 11 February 2011

Opening Weekend: $18,900 (USA) (13 February 2011) (3 Screens)

Gross: $355,044 (USA) (14 August 2011)

Technical Specs

Runtime: France:  | USA:  | Argentina:

User Review

Pungent commentary on male-dominated middle class Korean society

Rating: 9/10

In recent weeks five teenagers have killed themselves as a result of bullying. A new poll has indicated that slightly more than a third of teens in the U.S. personally have been subjected to bullying behavior. In the poll, more than two-thirds of teens also said their friends about been bullied. Yet a majority of adults, according to the poll, believe bullying is a minor problem or not a problem at all. In the macho society we live in and tolerate, women are even more likely to be victims than men. In Lee Chang-dong's latest film Poetry, winner of the award for Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival, a young girl commits suicide after being repeatedly raped by a group of juveniles. Sadly, the fathers of the other boys are only interested in protecting their sons from prosecution, silencing the press and school officials, and collecting enough money to pay off the girl's mother.

Like Secret Sunshine, Poetry revolves around a woman mourning the death of a child, although here it is not her own. The idea for the film had its origin in a true case where a small town schoolgirl had been raped by a gang of teenage boys. In contrast to the grandmother in Bong-Joon-ho's Mother who refused to believe her son was responsible for a murder, Mija, a 66-year old played by Yung Jungee in her first role in 16 years, learns from the fathers of the other boys that her 16-year old grandson Wook (Lee Da-wit) was one of the six people involved in the rape and wishes to pursue justice. Though Mija privately knows that it is more important for the boys including her own to acknowledge their role in the crime, living in the male-dominated middle class Korean society, she reluctantly tries to raise her share of the payoff money, but expresses her feelings in not wanting to participate by the look on her face and by abruptly walking out of meetings.

Rebelling against society's norms comes naturally to Lee's characters even though they have suffered a terrible loss or, in the case of Mija, is beginning to suffer the effects of encroaching dementia. Always dressed in flowery clothes and looking cheerful, Mija takes care of Wook in the absence of his mother who is divorced and living in Pusan and she supports herself by taking care of a stroke-ridden elderly man. Unfortunately, Wook spends most of his time on his computer or cell phone and there is little communication between grandmother and grandson. Aside from screaming at Wook, "Why did you do it?" Mija does not attempt to engage in conversation with the boy about treating others with civility and respect, nor apparently do the fathers of the other boys talk to their sons about their atrocious behavior.

After seeing a poster that reminds her that one of her teachers once told her that she had a vein for poetry, Mija, on a whim, enrolls in a poetry class and the film follows her attempt to write a single poem before the class ends. Some of the most affecting scenes in the film are the discussions in the poetry class led by their teacher who tells them poetry does not require a special time or place or even inspiration, it only requires seeing the world as if for the first time and asks the class to share their memory of the most beautiful time in their life. Another poignant moment is when Mija meets the mother of the deceased girl (Park Myeong-sin) in a field and establishes a relationship based on the world that they see around them, even though she neglects to ask her if she would accept a cash settlement, the reason she went to visit her.

Lamenting the fact that poetry is a dying art, Lee challenges us to see the beauty and the transcendence beyond the pain of the modern world. Speaking at a press conference, he said, "Poetry is not just like a bouquet of flowers that is beautiful in itself," he says. "It is life. No matter the ugliness of the world, there's always something beautiful inside. That's what I wanted to show." Lee succeeds in showing us the beauty beneath the ugliness and the fact that regardless of our age or circumstances, we have the ability to transform our lives. Yet the question must be raised – would not Mija have made more of a difference if she had engaged in a quiet conversation with her morally-challenged grandson about knowing why it is wrong to be reckless with the lives of others than in waxing poetic about flowers and fruits, or even life and death?


Comments are closed.