With SECRET SUNSHINE, South Korean director Lee Chang-dong (PEPPERMINT CANDY, OASIS) proves that he is one of the world's most accomplished directors. His latest film is a sprawling tale of personal transformation after grief shatters the life of an innocent woman. Jeon Do-yeon, who deservedly won the Best Actress prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, plays Shin-ae, a widow who has decided to move to her late husband's hometown of Miryang (which stands for "Secret Sunshine") with her young son, Jun. Upon arriving, she meets an ordinary mechanic, Kim Jong-chan (played by Korean superstar Song Kang-ho), who clearly takes a shine to her. Shin-ae finds difficulty acclimating to her new environment, but after opening a piano academy she begins to settle into life in the small town. Then tragedy strikes once again, further derailing her attempts to conquer her loneliness and grief. Her previous disdain for religion is shattered one day at a church service, setting her on a spiritual journey that seemed incomprehensible just weeks before.
SECRET SUNSHINE is an ambitious film that feels like several movies in one. Do-yeon delivers one of the finest performances of recent memory, covering the gamut of human emotions with seeming effortlessness. Kang-ho, who is one of South Korea's most recognizable stars (THE HOST, SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE), gleefully embraces his role as an Everyman, providing depth in what could have otherwise been a forgettable role. Ultimately, it is Chang-dong's assured writing and directing that makes SECRET SUNSHINE such a revelation. Though his film is hard to categorize, it is just that expansiveness that makes it such a tour-de-force.
Cannes Best Actress 2007 Jeon Do Yeon Actress, SECRET SUNSHINE