My Love, Don’t Cross That River is a portrait of a marriage. Jo Byeong-man is 98 and Kang Gye-yeol and is 89. They have been together for 75 years. Pretty amazing, right?
Director Jin Mo-young records their lives for 15 months, as they discuss their past, clean up around their rural home, prepare meals and take walks. They are slow walks, to be sure, but they can still move, and in one scene Jo Byeong-man carries an impressively large load of firewood on his back.
Many of their walks are taken hand in hand and that’s how they fall asleep each night, too. They are always seen in traditional Korean clothes, usually in matching colours – bright, beautiful colours. Were they on their best sartorial behaviour for the full 15 months, or is that just the way they like to dress? I’m going to assume the latter.
While you’ll hear the occasional comment like “people get old, you can’t do anything about it,” they are remarkably upbeat. They’re playful, too, like children, newlyweds, or the cute little puppies that arrive in the fullness of time (after the pastor’s dog pay a visit to their own pooch.)
Jo presents his wife with a little bouquet of flowers and she accepts them happily, rubbing them on her face and his. They throw autumn leave at each other, sample the seasons first snowfall (then play with that, too).
After all these years, he still appreciates her cooking: “He’s never said it isn’t good. . .he eats a lot and then says ‘what a great meal.’ ” Actually, Kang Gye-yeol seems to have more energy (or patience) for food preparation than I do!
Children and grandchildren come to visit, bring gifts and pay their respects on New Year’s Day and Kang Gye-yeol’s birthday. Presumably they live far away, because we don’t see them much, apart from those days. I was uncomfortable watching a nasty fight between two siblings; it’s a harsh contrast to the warm affection that the two love birds share and it leaves them in tears.
Even at the beginning of the film, Jo Byeong-man coughs frequently and things just get worse as time goes on. Sometimes his cough keeps him awake at night. When they take their walks he has to stop more often to rest. Do you see where this is going? Kang Gye-yeol asks her husband to hang on a little longer, but at the same time, she starts burning some of his beautiful, colourful clothes so that he will have things to wear in the afterlife.
My Love, Don’t Cross That River was a big hit at the Korean box office, outselling many U.S. hits in the first weeks it was in cinemas. So far it is Korea’s most popular homegrown documentary. (Old Partner, about a man his ox and his wife, pretty much in that order, holds the No. 2 spot. The AmerAsia Film Festival showed Old Partner in Montreal in 2011. Read my review Old Partner for the Montreal Gazette here. )
My Love, Don’t Cross That River
Directed by Jin Mo-young
Country : South Korea
Year : 2014
Language : Korean
Subtitles : French, English
Runtime : 86 min
Production : Kyungsoo Han
Cinematography : Moyoung Jin
Editing : Zinsik Hyun
Sound : Minu Jung
Contact: Maëlle Guenegues
Cat & Docs
Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, 4:15
Cinéma Du Parc 1, 3575 Park