Sunday, June 26, 2016
My Love, Don't Cross That River (***)
Directed by Jin Mo-young
Jin Mo-young's My Love, Don't Cross That River is heartbreaking weepy of a documentary, a film about the final moments of a 76-year marriage. It's testament to the power of love, and the endurance of love, is indescribably beautiful. South Korean couple Jo Byeong-man and Kang Kye-yeol met when Kang was just fourteen years old. Arranged, the marriage continued on through twelve children, with six of them dying as children. Jin Mo-young's film covers the final year they live together as Jo's health disintegrates quickly. As Kang faces leaving the man she loves, the reality hits hard, not only for her but for their children and grandchildren. The film is sparse, is comprised almost exclusively from scenes in their modest village home, with their two dogs, Freebie and Kiddie. And yet, we can feel the history between these two beings, and we can feel the immense tragedy that they've had to overcome and will still have to overcome. For a couple in such an advanced age, their active, playful lifestyles are wonderfully charming. Jo's irascible prankster behavior blends fluidly into Kang's dry sense of humor. You can tell that this is a routine they've lived through for several decades. The two are beloved by their family, treated like gods on Earth, but they take the praise with modest smiles, Jo hardly able to hear anything. But they still dance, they still sing with one another, and never cease an opportunity for a snow ball fight. The film's third act is where My Love, Don't Cross That River crosses over into tearjerker territory. You can feel the pain in its purest sense as Jo's health goes South and quickly, but Jin's camera lingers so absolutely, leaving the audience no escape from Kang's tears. This film obviously has struck a chord with its homeland. At this time, its the most commercially successful documentary in Korean film history. There's a lot here, whether your Korean or otherwise, to identify with. The longer one lives, the more one leaves themselves open to moments of heartbreak and tragedy. My Love, Don't Cross That River is a film about two people who have faced that heartbreak and tragedy with great aplomb, a tremendous, inspirational display the endures even through the director's harping on their sadness.