Film Review: Hope

By Pui See Tsang

While walking to school by herself, an eight-year-old girl named Hope (Lee Re)­­­ is abducted, brutally beaten and raped. After being informed that their daughter has been taken to a hospital, Hope’s parents, Mi-hee (Eom Ji-won) and Dong-hoon (Sol Kyung-gu), rush to her side only to be told by doctors that her only chance of survival is to undergo intestinal surgery. Devastated, Mi-hee and Dong-hoon reluctantly agree to the surgery. They then seek justice for their child and try to find the criminal responsible for her tragedy. However, police procedures dictate that Hope must first give video testimony to identify the criminal before any further action can be taken to arrest him.

Director Lee Joon-ik contributed enormously to the success of Hope. In amateur hands the film would have been a cheap emotional ploy. However, thanks to Joon-ik, the plot was treated with all the seriousness it deserved. The actors play their roles very convincingly, and manage to invoke strong emotions in their viewers. Notable actors include Sol Kyung-gu and Lee Re, who managed to portray very relatable characters. Sol Kyung-gu is a multi award-winning actor who has starred in some of Korea’s best films including the Public Enemy series, Lee Chang-dong’s Peppermint Candy and Oasis, Haeundae (Tidal Wave), and A Petal, which was her debut feature.

Despite its morbid themes, Hope is an uplifting film. Lee Joon-ik did a great job telling a story in which people find hope and happiness in even the most dreadful circumstances. It places an emphasis on strong character development rather than focus on the drama alone. Though challenging and frequently grim, Hope is a moving testament to the human spirit that shows some of Lee’s best directorial skills.

Hope will have its North American Premiere at Film Society of Lincoln Center and a Q&A with actor Sol Kyung-gu.

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