Universal acclaim - based on 19 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 19
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 19
  3. Negative: 0 out of 19

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    May 5, 2011
    Daring in the ways only quiet, unhurried but finally haunting films have the courage to be. A character study of remarkable subtlety joined to a carefully worked-out plot that fearlessly explores big issues like beauty, truth and mortality, it marks the further emergence of Korean writer-director Lee Chang-dong.
  2. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Apr 8, 2011
    Beauty comes to us unexpectedly. That's the message of Poetry, a Korean movie about an aging housemaid that turns out to be one of the best films of the year.
  3. 100
    A heartrending film, Lee's Poetry is indeed a work of art.
  4. Reviewed by: Wesley Morris
    Mar 3, 2011
    This is a movie whose power comes from the alignment both of Mija's discovery with ours and of a tremendous writer and director with his star.
  5. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Mar 3, 2011
    Yun's performance is remarkable. The journey Mija takes is painful and hard and - for us, watching - sublime.
  6. Reviewed by: Lisa Schwarzbaum
    Feb 16, 2011
    Facing a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, the older woman enrolls in a poetry class, desperate to find the words to describe beauty before language fails her. She does even better: She herself becomes a kind of poem about what it means to really see the world.
  7. Reviewed by: Manohla Dargis
    Feb 10, 2011
    The importance of seeing, seeing the world deeply, is at the heart of this quietly devastating, humanistic work from the South Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong.
  8. Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson
    Feb 8, 2011
    A perfectly paced and performed character study of a woman raising a child on her own who must contend with a heinous act of violence.
  9. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Feb 9, 2011
    It may go without saying that Poetry adopts a lyrical tone, but this forms the crux of its appeal. In this case, the title says it all.
  10. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    May 19, 2011
    Yun's performance is genuinely beautiful, a haunting expression of life, of its disappointments and its possibilities, rendered in a way that befits the title.
  11. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Feb 25, 2011
    Lee doesn't make exploitation films, and he doesn't find conventional answers. He is puzzled by the mysteries of inexplicable behavior.
  12. Reviewed by: Noel Murray
    Feb 10, 2011
    Whenever all the pieces are in place, though, Lee reverts to the kind of storytelling he does best.
  13. Reviewed by: J.R. Jones
    Feb 25, 2011
    The premise of this South Korean import may call to mind that of another, Bong Joon-ho's recent suspense film "Mother," but Poetry is another bird entirely: true to the title, writer-director Lee Chang-dong is principally concerned with rendering emotions that seem inexpressible.
  14. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Feb 9, 2011
    Yun is quite simply spectacular as a woman who holds steadfastly on to her dignity and empathy, even in the face of unspeakable tragedy.
  15. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Feb 7, 2011
    Calmer and less shattering than his masterly psychodrama "Secret Sunshine" (2007), Poetry is a deceptively gentle tale with a tender ache at its center, as well as a performance from Yun Jung-hee that lingers long in the memory.
  16. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Sep 29, 2011
    Yun, a veteran Korean actress, gives a splendidly layered performance.
  17. Reviewed by: V.A. Musetto
    Feb 11, 2011
    Poetry, which rightfully won the best-screenplay prize at Cannes, never resorts to exploitation. Under Lee's guidence, it is a mature film for mature audiences.
  18. 70
    It comes together neatly, perhaps too neatly to be … poetry. But it's not prosaic, either. It has a lucid grace.
  19. Reviewed by: Maggie Lee
    Feb 7, 2011
    Not everyone will wax lyrical about this enigmatic and troubling film, which is also Chan-dong's most slow-moving one. But those with an eye for reading between the lines can find layers of meaning.

Awards & Rankings

User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 39 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 10
  2. Negative: 2 out of 10
  1. Apr 9, 2011
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. What's that thing called when a group of young school-aged boys coerce an innocent girl, a classmate, to engage in rounds of repeated sexual intercourse against her will over the course of six weeks? It's not "wallet" or "bus terminal", but be patient with Mija(Yun Jung-Hee), a beautiful, somewhat self-possessed grandmother in her mid-sixties who was recently diagnosed with the early signs of Alzheimer's Disease. You'll have to excuse Mija. Her mind is, understandably, a little hazy, and in addition to her condition, the old woman is a little set in her ways. Like any aging woman, Mija likes routine. Like clockwork, she cooks and cleans for her M.I.A. daughter's subordinate, and supplements her welfare checks with a caretaking job where she looks after a disabled old man. That's her world, her bubble. But that world is about to change. And pop. She just enrolled in a poetry class. The word which eludes the literary upstart at the start of her emotional journey will come to her by course's end. For the time being, Mija finds herself in a constant struggle with language, but the poetic inspiration she seeks gives a wide berth to her eager mind, but it can't be solely attributed to the effects of the fast-approaching disease. On the literary class' first day, the earnest instructor tells his pupils that "the most important thing in life is seeing," and for Mija, being able to see extends beyond the ability to describe an apple, or a beautiful flower, or the mysteries of birdsong. But she can't. She has blinders on. She loves her grandson. "Poetry" begins with the aftermath of a suicide, when a group of boys playing down by the riverside notice a motionless body turned faced down, advancing cryptically towards them, dictated by the water's currents. In a diary kept by the girl detailing her nightmarish ordeal, the principal characters in this morality play could easily deduce that she jumped, as if the collected auras of the repugnant boys with their phallic weapons were there with the spent girl at the bridge on that fateful spring day to do the pushing themselves. Set in a South Korean small town, "Poetry" subtly suggests how the nihilistic American subculture of sex, drugs, and rock and roll has infiltrated the mindsets of the Asian youth, therefore tossing aside the values practiced by preceding generations of eastern peoples, turning their thoughtful ways into a study in antiquity. "Poetry" has the form of a Korean film, but the content of an American one. In the opening of Tim Hunter's "River's Edge", we get the metaphor of male tyranny over womankind that "Poetry" infers, in which a slightly younger boy, also on a bridge, has in his possession a female doll, a child's toy, in his clutches, which he then proceeds to drop into the river below. The boy's older friend John(Daniel Roebuck), who murders a girl for real, leaves the nude body on the grass near the perimeter of the water, where her supposed friends would visit without the requisite amount of horror that a sensitized person should exhibit as a witness to a crime scene. The curious, almost heartbreaking lack of remorse in Mija's grandson, Wook(Lee David), who plays a part in the girl's decision to kill herself, carries strong reverberations with the 1986 indie shocker that introduced Keanu Reeves to the world, and featured an electric performance by Crispin Glover. Nobody reports the similarly heinous incident to the proper authorities in "Shi"(the original South Korean title) either. This time, however, it's the boys' fathers, respectable members of the community, not teenaged burn-out stoners, who don't do the right thing, choosing instead to pay reparations(read: hush money) to the girl's mother. Mija, the only woman in the sordid group becomes co-opted by this patriarchal conspiracy, but in time, her creative writing class helps the confused old woman see that the dead girl is more important than the jeopardized futures of the guilty boys. Limited by writing exercises that only emphasize the flowery side of poetry, Mija slowly comes to realize how verse can encompass objects and emotions that aren't necessarily beautiful. As the specter of the drowned girl seeps into the things that she takes notes on in her scratch pad, the descriptions grow increasingly darker. In one entry, she observes, "The apricot throws itself to the ground, crushed and trampled on, being prepared for the next life." Poetic inspiration grabs the old woman by the neck when it dawns on her that the world isn't always necessarily beautiful place. It wasn't for the girl. Finally, before the dementia takes hold, Mija finds the right word to describe Wook, and it isn't "grandson", it's "rapist", and she turns him over to the police. Mija writes a poem called "Agnes' Song". She learns what it means to be a moral artist. Full Review »
  2. Jun 18, 2012
    My personal favorite film of 2011 along with A Separation.The movie,itself, facinated me in every aspects by providing one of the mostMy personal favorite film of 2011 along with A Separation.The movie,itself, facinated me in every aspects by providing one of the most stunningly beautiful and profoundly inspiring storyline. The acting was perfectly crafted and truly deserved an acheivement by winning The Best Screen play Award in Festival De Cannes. An unforgettable film. Full Review »
  3. Aug 4, 2011
    i don't know hangul, but the way the poem in the ending was translated into english, it was beautiful. it tells a lot about dementia and oldi don't know hangul, but the way the poem in the ending was translated into english, it was beautiful. it tells a lot about dementia and old age, helplessness, kindness, famaily, morality and poetry. amazing woman. Full Review »