CHEER UP MR. LEE
Director: Lee Gae-byok
Writer: Kim Hee-jin, Jang Yoon-mi, Lee Gae-byok
Cheol-soo (Cha Seung-Won) was a tall, handsome and buff, but intellectually deficient. He found out that he has a young daughter named Saet-byeol (Um Chae-Young), that he never knew existed, and she had leukemia. One day, Saet-byeol snuck out of her hospital room to take a bus ride to Daegu for a secret mission. Catching her at the bus stop, Cheol-soo went along with her for the long road trip. Father and daughter have misadventures as they get to know each other better.
Korean cinema had already explored the relationship between a mentally-slow man and his little daughter in the hit film "Miracle in Cell No. 7," a comedy on the surface, but an emotional tearjerker at its core. I really have to admire Koreans for being able to conjure up these unexpected mixes of disparate film genres in one movie. This one also a gangster angle and a disaster angle.
It was a bit too wacky at first, but the likable characters hook you in for the whole ride, capping it with a dramatic flashback that tied everything in. As simpleton Cheol-soo, it was hard to believe that Cha Seung-won was the same actor who played the sinister gang kingpin in "Night in Paradise" (2020). The 12-year-old Um Chae-young was impressive as the ailing cancer patient Saet-byeol. Her never-say-die spirit certainly gave the film an inspirational boost.
THE 8TH NIGHT
Director: Kim Tae-hyoung
Writer: Kim Tae-hyoung
2500 years ago, Buddha gouged out the two eyes of the great evil monster that tormented humans. One was a black eye buried in the mountains. One was a red eye buried in the desert. An anthropologist found the stone box containing the red eye. Now time has come for it to go looking for the other eye by infiltrating seven pre-selected hosts until it reaches its final host, the virgin shaman.
Before he died, the guardian monk Ha-jeong (Lee Eol) ordered his young apprentice Cheong-seok (Nam Da-reum) to seek the exorcist Jin-soo (Lee Sung-min) so that he can find and kill the virgin shaman before the red eye reached her. Meanwhile, police detectives Kim Ho-tae (Park Hae-joon) and his partner Dong-jin (Kim Dong-young) are investigating the series of mysterious grotesque murders happening the past six nights.
The legend about the monster's eyes reuniting was interesting as the backstory of this horror thriller film, as was the Buddhist meditation cult for suicide survivors. Not really scary, but the special effects of what the red eye did to its victims could be startling and creepy. The central relationship between Jin-soo and Cheong-seok was the heart of this film, with Nam Da-reum and his innocent face drawing audience sympathy.
Director: Kim Hyun-tak
Writer: Kim Hyun-tak
A-Young (Kim Hyang-Gi) had to move out of the orphanage she grew up in when she reached the age limit. She had to support herself with odd jobs while taking up courses on teaching preschool children. Her latest job was a babysitter taking care of a fussy baby Hyuk for a single mother Young-Chae (Ryoo Hyoun-Kyoung), who worked every night as a hostess in a karaoke bar.
This was an intimate look at the state of poverty in South Korea, about young people who can barely make ends meet, the relationships they have and the decisions they make. It was not so common to see what happens to those who outgrow the orphanage, and here we see how A-young and her friends were faring in their lives. A-young's serious perseverance at her young age was very admirable.
On the other hand, we also see the sad life of a young mother Young-chae, and her relationships with her female boss at the bar where she worked and a shady woman who sold babies in the black market. Watching her series of stressful misfortunes was enough to affect the viewer's own mental health. It was good to see Kim Hyang-gi after the two "Along with the Gods" films. One thing though, the baby playing little Hyuk was too cute and cuddly to be convincing as malnourished.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."