Two heartwarming films for when you can’t feel your toes

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Two heartwarming films for when you can’t feel your toes


Left: Human comedy-drama “A Gift from Room 7” tells the story of a mentally challenged man who is wrongfully put in a prison full of notorious criminals. Right: “The Gangster Shaman” centers on a gangster who leads a double life as a shaman after an accident. Provided by NEW/ Showbox

Hollywood blockbusters like “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and “Les Miserables” have recently hit Korean theaters, but there are still a number of Korean flicks that are worth checking out in the new year. Two heart-warming comedies are perfect for a frigid winter night: “A Gift from Room 7” and “The Gangster Shaman.”

Lee Hwan-kyung’s latest film “A Gift from Room 7,” which is readying for a Jan. 24 release, tells the story of a mentally challenged man, Yong-gu (Ryu Seung-ryong), who is wrongly convicted of a crime while purchasing a gift for his beloved daughter Ye-seung (Gal So-won).

He is thrown into a maximum security prison with a number of notorious criminals. The range of crimes they are convicted for vary from fraud and pick-pocketing to adultery.

At first everyone in the prison is bemused by the newcomer with an older man’s body who acts like a child, but later they grow attached to Yong-gu and start taking care of him. The father has only one wish: to see his daughter Ye-seung.

The strict prison policy, however, does not allow visitors. So the gang of convicts decides to help him by sneaking in his daughter.

Ryu, who plays Yong-gu, is a master at work in the film, tastefully making the audience laugh as though they had a dose of laughing gas before the start.

“I didn’t focus on changing my look to play Yong-gu but tried hard to embrace the susceptibility that young kids have,” he said.

“I talked with So-won, who plays my daughter in the movie, all day long and tried to remind myself of childhood.”

The actor earned critical acclaim for his roles in box office hits “Masquerade” and “All About My Wife,” but playing a mentally challenged man was a new task altogether.

“I developed a deeply rooted habit of thoroughly analyzing scripts since I took on a theatrical role, but Yong-gu was especially challenging. I made a graph outlining the flow of Yong-gu’s feelings based on different scenes, locations and timelines.

“I tried to get into the role 24 hours a day,” the 42-year-old actor who won best supporting actor for “Masquerade” at this year’s Daejong Film Awards.

Ryu also drew on his experience of meeting a mentally handicapped man.

“I’ve met and talked with the disabled and there was one man who drew my attention. He is very pure and always wears a big smile,” the actor said.

“I try to inject his characteristics into Yong-gu. The man tends to speak the same thing over and over and is good at memorizing specific numbers.”

In addition to a plethora of hilarious scenes, director Lee infused dramatic moments into the heartfelt comedy.

“I was inspired by a documentary telling the story of a father and his daughter.

“He was arrested by the police but kept saying, ‘You should have breakfast before leaving for school’ to his daughter, although she has no one to prepare meals for her. The scene was a starting point for this movie,” the director said.

Lee proved his exceptional ability to touch people’s hearts in his previous work “Lump Sugar”(2006), which explores a friendship between an aspiring jockey and a horse.

The human drama won over critics and moviegoers alike and successfully presented the warm-hearted relationship as reflected in the movie’s line: “What makes the horse move is not the whip but the jockey’s heart.”

“The Gangster Shaman” by Jo Jin-kyu tells an even more bizarre story.

The upcoming movie with its release date set for Jan. 10 presents a veteran gangster, Gwang-ho (Park Shin-yang), who is both incredibly loyal and skilled.

After an accident, Gwang-ho gets possessed by a spirit and then becomes a shaman, beginning a hand-wringing double life as a gangster-shaman.

As strange as the story may sound, director Jo said he was inspired by an online news report that stated that a gangster had indeed become a shaman.

The director holds a strong foothold in the gangster comedy genre with his successful debut feature “My Wife is Gangster” (2001).

By Park Eun-jee []
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