I cannot believe how hard it was for me to write this review for The Way Home. And it has nothing to do with the quality of the film, as it is very understandable how this captured the hearts of its native Korean audience. What made this review hard to write was the fact that this film, while enjoyable, just makes me feel somewhat wretched about my relationship with my grandparents. And yet, paradoxically, it is one of the strengths of the film and it is that empathy that makes The Way Home such an enriching film.
But enough about my utter lack of filial piety. What makes The Way Home a film that I feel such empathy for (it would be somewhat arrogant to presume it amongst others) was the concerns and themes explored in the movie. Well first of all you have the conflict between two generations with very different lifestyles and concerns completely alien to one another — on the one hand you have Sang Woo’s modern sensibilities versus his grandmother’s simpler more rustic approach to life. Being forced to stay with her, it is Sang Woo’s gradual acceptance of his grandmothers simpler and traditional way of life that holds such resonance for myself.
A friend once commented during the spate of Jane Austen films that were being released a few years ago that some of the attraction of those films were that people were enamoured with the simpler lifestyle of the characters as compared to people’s complicated lives today. While not completely subscribing to that point of view, I can’t completely dismiss it and The Way Home offers that similar simplicity and quasi-luddite point of view with Sang Woo’s grandmother’s wearing away of his superficial and spoilt nature. As his modern comforts fail around him, he eventually finds solace in his Grandmother and the small community she lives in.
Apart from the general guilt complex, there was one more thing about The Way Home that made it so hard to write about (apart from general laziness) and that was how old Sang Woo made me feel. And it wasn’t so much the age of Yoo Seung Ho that bugged me as much as how petulant and annoying he was in the beginning – it raised so many thoughts about kids today and how they have no respect etc; generally invoking the Spirit of the Old Man upstairs, that made me realise maybe I am getting on. A comment like this seems hardly out of place when discussing a child actor and I am somewhat impressed that a casting agent could find someone that you so want to kill. However, what distinguished Seung Ho’s performance is his growing up as the movie progresses. He still remains somewhat of a spoilt brat but at least you can see his appreciation for his Grandmother develop.