In Birthday, South Korean heavyweights Sul Kyung-gu and Jeon Do-yeon deliver a masterclass in on-screen bereavement as parents grieving after their son’s death in the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster. Viewers looking for a dramatic reconstruction of the tragedy, or an investigation into its controversial aftermath, will be sorely disappointed, however. Writer-director Lee Jong-un trains his focus solely on the Jeong family, and specifically the efforts of its estranged patriarch Jung-il (Sul) to ingratiate himself into the fractured household two years after the tragedy.
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