Critics and avid moviegoers have taken notice of South Korea’s film industry in recent years and have expressed their admiration. It makes sense given their distinct aesthetic, bold approach, innovative cinematography, and top-notch performances.
The demand for all sub-genres of South Korean film is correspondingly high at the moment. In addition to its outstanding crime, thriller and romance films, South Korea is known for producing fantastic family films that have a comforting and emotionally resonant note: keep your tissue handy.
‘Miracle in Cell #7’ (2013)
Miracle in Cell #7 follows a mentally handicapped man (Ryu Seung Ryong), who was mistakenly jailed for murder and bonds with the skilled criminals in his cell who smuggled his daughter into prison so they could meet. The film is based on the true story of a man who, after torturing and coercively confessing to the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in Chuncheon in 1972, was only rehabilitated in 2008.
The film draws viewers in with its closeness and straightforward dialogue that’s easy to find in everyday conversations. The father-daughter relationship was delicately and tenderly explored that viewers couldn’t help but cry. In addition, the chemistry between the actors is excellent, which raises the core idea of the film to an even higher level of quality.
“I Can Talk” (2017)
I can talk it’s about Nah Ok-Bun (Na Moon-Hee), an elderly woman named “Goblin Granny” for reporting citizen grievances to her county office. When they met this officer Min Jae (Lee Je Hoon) mastered English, she asks him to teach her. While studying together, Min Jae learns about Ok Bun’s tragic past.
I can talk has many funny moments in the first half of the film. The audience couldn’t help but laugh as Ok-boon performed their unique “tortures”. The film deftly takes viewers from amusing situations to a tragic story that condemns the harsh realities of society and the irreparable effects of war. In addition, there is a true sense of kinship that touches the hearts of viewers.
‘Ode to My Father’ (2014)
Ode to my father covers South Korean history from the 1950s to the present day from the perspective of a man named Yoon Deok-Soo (Hwang Jung-Min), which touches on historical events such as the evacuation of Hungnam during the Korean War in 1950, the government’s decision to send nurses and miners to West Germany in the 1960s, and finally the Vietnam War.
Deok-soo seems to be a metaphor for his generation and the connection between past and present that helped shape South Korea as it is today. For director Yoon Je Kyoon The film is not just about Deok-Soo’s 60-year journey, but references it and emphasizes the importance of family ties with an exceptionally sophisticated narrative as the past and present are intertwined.
‘A Taxi Driver’ (2017)
A taxi driverbased on a true story follows a Seoul taxi driver named Kim Man-Seob (Song Kang Ho) who drives a German reporter and unknowingly becomes involved in the 1980 Gwangju riots. Most of the details of the driver’s life and incidents outside of Gwangju are fictional as the driver’s identity and real name were unknown to Kim at the time of filming.
It is daring for Korean cinema to portray this historic event while openly criticizing the military and government for their heinous acts and open repression of the populace. Underlying all societal and political issues, however, is what family, friendship, and support from those we care about really mean.
Pledge follows two debt collectors, Doo-Suk (Sung Dong Il) and Jong Bae (Kim Hee Won), who kidnap Seung-Yi (Park So-Yi), a 9-year-old girl, by her illegal immigrant mother as “security”. Doo Suk and Jung Bae unexpectedly take on the role of their guardians. As they live together, the three people – the girl and the two men – slowly form a family bond.
The film offers warmth and enjoyment with a strong cast in a superbly written film. The cast’s family dynamic helped give the film its tone: there’s never a dull moment. Furthermore, the dialogues are well balanced and the plot has a good pacing, which reinforces the film’s message.
‘Inseparable Brothers’ (2019)
Inseparable brothers focuses on Dong Goo (Lee Kwang Soo), an athlete with a mental age of five, and Se Ha (Shin Ha Kyun), a mentally handicapped intellectual. Although not related by blood, they have been inseparable companions for more than 20 years and live almost as one. The situation changes when Dong-gu’s mother unexpectedly shows up and takes care of him.
Through exchanges between strangers that are nonetheless kind and caring, the film emphasizes the importance of family devotion. Despite the slow pace and predictable details, it’s excellent that the film explores the feelings of the individuals to emphasize the importance of the family it seeks to convey.
“A Brand New Life” (2009)
A brand new life is a directorial debut by Ounie Lecomte, who also wrote the screenplay. The film, loosely based on Lecomte’s experiences, is set in 1975 Seoul. It centers on a girl whose father abandoned her in a Catholic orphanage as she struggles to adjust to a new life.
While it has its heartbreaking moments, Lecomte’s film has a pleasantly light touch that fits the story of a brave girl’s survival. The film moves at a leisurely pace, paying attention to emotional aspects at every turn. Kim Sae Ron also gave the most depressing performance of her career just to make the film better.
“Train to Busan” (2016)
Train to Busan, the internationally acclaimed zombie action horror film, is set aboard a bullet train traveling from Seoul to Busan when a sudden zombie outbreak threatens the lives of the passengers. The film follows Seok Woo (gong yo), a fund manager taking a KTX train to Busan with his daughter.
Despite being an action thriller, the film focuses on the father’s love and closeness to his children as a central theme and takeaway. Viewers’ hearts were warmed by the gentle, charming and tender nuances about families skillfully sprinkled into the bloodshed and gore, adding depth to the ending while making it sadder at the same time.
“The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale” (2019)
The Odd Family: Zombie on sale follows the strange Park family, who own a gas station, discover a zombie accidentally created by a pharmaceutical company’s illicit experiments, and seek to profit from it. However, when the villagers mutate into zombies, the situation changes.
Along with the usual gore and brutality of zombie movies, family values are the film’s central theme. Furthermore, despite the lack of a clear plot and reliance on coincidences to advance the narrative, viewers can still easily overlook this for the amusing and endearing family scenes involving the parks.
‘Scandal Maker’ (2008)
scandal maker follows a former teen star, Nam Hyeon-Soo (Cha Tae Hyun), who is now in his thirties and works as a radio DJ. His life is turned upside down when a young woman named Hwang Jeong-Nam (Park Bo Jung) arrives at his apartment with her son and claims he is her father, making him the boy’s grandfather.
Given the frailties of youth, a perfectly dysfunctional family is a wonderful story of scandal. Despite its name, this film is mainly about perceptions: when a young man in his thirties plays the role of the grandfather, it is humorous and easy to talk about family problems. The film is a must-see for family movie fans due to its hilarious, upbeat tone and incredible cast chemistry.
READ NEXT: Top 10 Michelle Yeoh Movies You Must See After ‘Everything at Once’
https://collider.com/10-great-heartbreaking-south-korean-family-movies/ 10 of the Best, Most Touching South Korean Family Movies