2007 / Lee Chang-dong > Not sure if being Korea’s Minister of Culture and Tourism has somehow taken the edge off of Lee, but Secret Sunshine is a meandering disappointment that fails to take advantage of Jeon Do-yeon’s Best Actress-winning performance at Cannes. It is, in many ways, the kind of film that I absolutely abhor: One that presents problems but doesn’t offer many plausible solutions.
Human perseverance is always a fantastic topic (as we’ve seen Frank Darabont make a career out of it), but here the theme is stretched thin with hope nowhere in sight. In Oasis and Peppermint Candy, there was a certain logic to the pain that kept our attention afloat, our minds open and our hearts beating—and then we were rewarded with brave stories of the human condition. But Secret Sunshine lacks such humanity for us to care. Even with Lee’s objective incorporation of Christianity as a method of redemption, the protagonist’s inherent weakness makes her continuously unlikable, unbearable and, subsequently, leaves the film (and the viewer) without a point to rally around.