Secret Sunshine Blu-ray release

            Secret Sunshine is a film which begs for repeat viewings. The process of sitting through this 142 minute emotionally complex Korean human drama once is daunting enough to make a second viewing seem unlikely, but Secret Sunshine is a film which begs this. With a storyline that follows no clear formula or structure, the first viewing is filled with unexpected surprises and sudden inexplicable changes. Second views allow for some of these large moments to become easier to understand. The storyline is simple to follow, but the emotions within the film are so multi-layered and real that it feels as though we are trying to understand a person. Suddenly 142 minutes doesn’t seem so long.

            The film begins and takes place in a town called Miryang, translated as “secret sunshine.” We join Shin-ae (Jeon So-yeon) and her small son, Jun (Seon Jung-yeob), as they have car troubles just outside of Miryang. The city was Shin-ae’s recently deceased husband’s hometown. For unexplained reasons Shin-ae has cut ties with family and moved her son away from Seoul. Unfortunately, the car breaking down is only the beginning of bad luck upon arriving to town.

            A pleasant and attentive mechanic (Song Kang-ho) passively seeks Shin-ae’s attention, helping her with much more than her broken car despite the poor manner in which she treats him. When tragedy strikes the widow and single mother, the storyline does not take the expected healing route. Rather than the attention and love of the mechanic, our heroine suddenly finds herself a born-again Christian. To say any more would spoil the film’s many surprises, but I found myself unable to guess what might occur next in this particular drama.

            This Blu-ray release includes a spectacular high definition presentation of this visually rich drama, subtle as it may be in comparison to Lee Chang-dong’s previous work. The new digital transfer was supervised by the director, along with cinematographer Cho Yong-kyu, and the film has improved English subtitles. The special features include a new interview with Lee, a behind-the-scenes video on-set, and the U.S. theatrical trailer. The booklet inside the case includes an essay by film critic Dennis Lim, along with great production photography.

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