The Way Home

User Score
8.6

Universal acclaim- based on 17 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 17
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 17
  3. Negative: 1 out of 17

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User Reviews

  1. May 18, 2015
    8
    A spoiled, loud mouth brat. A mute, hunchback granny. An emotional breakdown-inducing boiled chicken. They all came together one day in a derelict wooden cabin in South Korea’s deep rural countryside and created a deeply satisfying magic little film of universal appeal. That is exactly what happened in Jeetongma, in the Northern Gyeongsang Province of South Korea back in 2002.

    As far
    A spoiled, loud mouth brat. A mute, hunchback granny. An emotional breakdown-inducing boiled chicken. They all came together one day in a derelict wooden cabin in South Korea’s deep rural countryside and created a deeply satisfying magic little film of universal appeal. That is exactly what happened in Jeetongma, in the Northern Gyeongsang Province of South Korea back in 2002.

    As far fetched a concept as it sounds, reality is even more implausible, as is often the case. Of its two main protagonists, one was an 8 year-old first time actor (Seung-Ho Yoo) and another an ethereal and majestic 78-year Eul-boon Kim who had never watched a film, let alone act in one. Both achieved what many a seasoned actor seeks to achieve and often fails: a performance of poetic understatement, rhythmic grace and profound meaning. To be honest, nothing much really happens in the film 'The Way Home'; its language is that of emotions and of as fewer words as possible. The plot boils down to a single mother who turns to her own elderly mother for support after a failed business venture and who leaves behind her son with her, so to be able to get back on her feet.

    The city boy/brat is predictably not particularly happy with this new arrangement. He misses his KFC and he is stuck in a home without electricity, water or a bed, let alone a supply of fried American chicken. He sulks, cries, kicks and screams. The grandmother shows limitless tolerance and unconditional love that only age can bring. She belongs to the clan of the Earth, as poetically depicted in one single lingering shot where she sits at the door, overseeing the countryside forest, swaying in synch with the trees as the wind ruffles through the leaves. She is a creature of forrest. The land, its people, its demands: that is all she has ever known. It has never occurred to her to ask for more because in her world, there isn’t more to ask for. She takes from the land the sustenance she needs for herself, whether for consumption or sale in the dusty rundown market. She is a weathered trunk, the hunchback betraying the hardships of the seasons taking their toll.

    Hers is the realm of simple pleasures: fleeting jocose moments with friends as weathered as her, the triumph that is managing to scrape deep enough to be able to afford a chicken and boil it for supper. He, on the other hand, belongs to the clan of game boy players. He has little patience to see through the seasons. He is incapable of being in synch with the rhythms of the land. And being in synch with them is pretty much all there is to do where he suddenly finds himself.

    He represents the present and future of South Korea; she the past. Without him, South Korea would have never risen from the ranks of deprivation, poverty and war. Without her, South Korea runs the risk of losing its soul. He expects and demands of life; she simply rides it. Naturally, matters come to a head and the age hold question of what happens when an unstoppable force meets an unmoveable one is finally answered. They create unity by learning from each other’s strengths. Far from being a children's morality tale, the plot actually skews any simplistic moral dogmatisms. The reality is that whilst the dignified grandmother, by force of persistence and unyielding permanency, does instil in the little boy a timeless sense of respect, moral rectitude and of right and wrong, she too learns a lesson. She learns that simply because things have always been a certain way, they don’t necessarily have to continue to be so. The grandson becomes the first and likely only person to ever acknowledge her beyond her obvious muteness and dignified silence. He teaches her how to communicate and write because, in the end, he cannot bear the thought of having to go and not being able to know if she is alright (read 'if she is alive'). And because after decades of illiteracy, written eloquence is a tough ask, he develops a unique visual language between her and him, much like the singular world that they built during their brief time together that only they can inhabit. And we are the lucky witnesses of the unfolding of that magical, intimate world. In the end, the unmovable and unstoppable forces learn that they don’t oppose each other as much as they complement one another.

    You, on the other hand, will wail over a boiled chicken, a dilapidated bus and ugly drawings in crumpled sheets of paper. Oh well…
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  2. AlexA.
    Jul 6, 2003
    10
    An absolute gem of a movie. Simple storytelling about a universal lesson - respect and love. The grandmother's face, etched by life, will stay with me forever. A powerful comment about this movie is that it out grossed Lord of the Rings in technology crazy South Korea which means to me that even they are looking for something simpler - a good story with simple acting guided by an An absolute gem of a movie. Simple storytelling about a universal lesson - respect and love. The grandmother's face, etched by life, will stay with me forever. A powerful comment about this movie is that it out grossed Lord of the Rings in technology crazy South Korea which means to me that even they are looking for something simpler - a good story with simple acting guided by an understanding director telling us what is truly important in life. Expand
  3. fionaVFP
    Feb 1, 2005
    10
    A marvelous film that you will never forget. Brilliant directing and acting, not much budget but you don't notice. Never boring, always funny and touching. Anyone who's ever cared for their relatives will be overwhelmed by the beauty of the feelings of this film. It's a masterpiece. Surprising it has not received the critical acclaim it deserves. 10 palmes d'Or.
  4. ChadS.
    Mar 5, 2005
    7
    The little boy is such an urbanite and possesses so much initial disdain for his unworldly grandmother, we're not quite sure how the old woman won him over. When he throws a temper tantrum over the chicken dinner his grandmother prepared for him straight from the chopping block, I started rooting for a black comedy, in which, as the boy sleeps, the old woman smothers him with a The little boy is such an urbanite and possesses so much initial disdain for his unworldly grandmother, we're not quite sure how the old woman won him over. When he throws a temper tantrum over the chicken dinner his grandmother prepared for him straight from the chopping block, I started rooting for a black comedy, in which, as the boy sleeps, the old woman smothers him with a pillow. The kid is a brat and would've remained so if not for the failure of the batteries for his video game. Is that enough motivation for a person to change? Never mind. "The Way Home" is still a good movie, however, because for a while, it rebukes the idea that the old have something to teach the young, a story we've seen in countless films with mawkish results. It's less successful when the boy and old woman start to bond, but Eul-boon Kim is great at merely existing in every scene she's in, and makes this South Korean sleeper a welcome antidote to overtly commercial efforts like "Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War" and "Shiri". Expand
Metascore
63

Generally favorable reviews - based on 19 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 19
  2. Negative: 0 out of 19
  1. Director Lee has a true cinematic knack, but it's also nice to see a movie with its heart so thoroughly, unabashedly on its sleeve.
  2. 80
    The plot of the picture is familiar, but it's realized with such delicacy and affection for the characters that it seems as fresh and warm as its verdant setting.
  3. If you ever doubted the power and scope of silent film, watch The Way Home. The narrative arc is as broad as any chattering feature, the emotional depth is greater than most, and it's all achieved with virtually no dialogue.