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I’m ashamed to say that I’ve largely allowed the films of Korean auteur Lee Chang-dong to pass me by until now. I did catch Poetry (although I much preferred Bong Joon-ho’s similarly-themed Mother) but that’s it, despite having both Peppermint Candy and this award-winning effort on my shelves for quite some time. While I will concede that Lee’s film aren’t the kind of film to which I normally gravitate, there is no denying his skill as a craftsman and ability to draw (some would say torment) excellent performances from his actors. That was certainly the case here, as Jeon Do-yeon is fantastic as the grieving widow who moves to her late husband’s home town to start afresh with her young son, only for him to be kidnapped. Song Kang-ho is equally good as the one eligible man in town who could possibly offer her something close to companionship. The film plunges into some pretty dark territory, taking particular aim at contrived religious groups that have become increasingly popular in South Korea in recent years, but at its heart this is a tough character drama – and an excellent one at that.

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