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Film on elderly couple a surprise hit

Dec 18,2014
“My Love, Don’t Cross That River,” a film about a senile married couple, is gaining traction among Korean moviegoers. The title is from an ancient Korean song called “Gongmudohaga.” Provided by Daemyung Culture Factory
Few in Korea’s movie industry thought that a documentary about the love between an elderly married couple would be a game changer in the country’s movie scene this winter.

But “My Love, Don’t Cross That River” by director Jin Mo-young grabbed the top spot in the box office over the weekend, surpassing Hollywood blockbusters such as Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi movie “Interstellar” and Ridley Scott’s biblical epic “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”

Director Jin Mo-young
In just a week after opening on Nov. 27, the film broke the 100,000 mark in terms of audience figures. As of Monday, the number had passed the one million level.

It’s quite an achievement given that “My Love” cost just 120 million won ($109,000) to make. Industry insiders project that accumulated sales from the movie amount to 8.3 billion won - 70 times more than what went into producing the film.

The movie is about Jo Byeong-man, 98, and his 89-year-old wife, Gang Gye-yeol. It begins with Gang crying at Jo’s tomb, and takes the audience back to a year before his death. It shows how the couple, despite being married for 76 years, enjoys their time together.

The documentary is often compared to “Wonangsori,” a 2009 documentary that also enjoyed unexpected success.

But it differs from other films of its genre in that it has no narration of any sort.

Its main audience demographic is also unexpected.

Because the film is about an older couple, it could have been perceived that most of its audience would be middle aged or older. But that is not the case.

According to statistics from CGV theaters, people in their 20s represented 54.2 percent of the audience for “My Love,” followed by people in their 30s (24.3 percent) and their 40s (15.5 percent).

Observers say it’s because, despite their age, the husband and wife appear very much in love in the film and are unafraid to show their affection in public.

The story of these elderly love birds was introduced to the public in a made-for-TV documentary in 2011. Director Jin created the film based on the televised version.

“I didn’t expect the response to be this strong,” Jin said. “It appears that people from all age groups feel moved by the film. I think it’s because it’s a romance movie that makes people realize what love is about.”

Movie critic Jeong Ji-wook agrees.

“Usually films where old people are the main characters are regarded as ‘silver film,’?” he said, referring to films about the lives of senile citizens. “But ‘My Love’ is a story about love, a subject that everyone can relate to, in addition to being a family movie.”

Others say the harsh reality of life today is another factor behind the response to the film.

“It’s a story of two humans who are committed to each other, being there for each other, unchanged for a very, very long time,” another critic, Maeng Su-jin, said. “It’s touching people’s hearts, as they are living in a society that’s defined by severed and fragmented human relationships.”

Word of mouth is also behind the movie’s success.

When the film was first introduced at the DMZ International Documentary Film Festival in September, it won the Audience Award. The PR agency marketing the movie was then certain that it had the potential to be a hit and held a preview earlier than usual, hoping it would spread as a result.

BY YIM JU-RI, GO SEOK-HEE [hkim@joongang.co.kr]


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