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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Journey to My Boy"

2017/12/16 | Permalink

Bo-hyeon (played by Kim Eun-joo-II) is a deaf interpretative dancer. She's married to Seong-rak (played by Seo Sung-gwang), a deaf gardener. For the sake of their careers, Bo-hyeon and Seong-rak entrusted their son Won-hyo (played by Lee Ro-woon) to Seong-rak's mother (played by Kim Gyung-ae). Now that Won-hyo is old enough to be going to school, Bo-hyeon and Seong-rak feel like they can step in as parents again, but there's a pretty big problem. Won-hyo can hear, and he does not know sign language.

Won-hyo's inability to communicate with his parents drives all the conflict here. Take one scene Bo-hyeon has to explain to a very immature Won-hyo that he needs to talk slowly enough that she can read his lips. Won-hyo is frustrated and ashamed of his parents, and even in his brattiest moments, it's easy to sympathize with him. He has a lot to deal with and not a whole lot of context with which to improve the situation.

"Journey to My Boy" depicts a long-term emotionally strained situation that still hasn't really been solved by the time the movie ends, even though Bo-hyeon constantly struggles and sacrifices to make that happy ending happen. For awhile I thought we were going to get an improvement montage through one of Bo-hyeon's fellow dancers, whose daughter, the same age as Won-hyo, knows how to sign. Unfortunately "Journey to My Boy" is the kind of realist story that doesn't deal in those kinds of gimmicks, since their viability in real life is dubious at best.

Instead, director Choi Wee-an fixates on the dark side of love. The topic is deeply uncomfortable, and that's why more films don't get into it. Contemplating a child who does not love is scarier than any horror film and Won-hyo is, from Bo-hyeon's point of view, an incredibly ungrateful child. As dearly as Bo-hyeon loves Won-hyo and wants to be with him the frustration of dealing with his attitude wears her down. Scenes from Won-hyo's perspective are even worse, where we see him trying to make things work through childlike logic, it just never gets anywhere.

And that's too much pressure to put on the poor boy anyway. He's so young. All the same, constant refrains about how he has plenty of time to grow up never help Bo-hyeon feel any better about herself, because she wants to love him right now. There's times where it seems like Seong-rak's unwavering love for Bo-hyeon is all that's keeping the poor woman going. Even with ideal familial support, there are limits.

The main literal message here is that the children of deaf parents need to be raised in a sign language environment. If you've ever wondered why deaf culture is a thing, "Journey to My Boy" explains it almost perfectly. These are the struggles deaf people who lack deaf culture to fall back on have to go through. But feel free to interpret "Journey to My Boy" as just a standard emotional drama, too. Deaf specific subject matter notwithstanding, the performances are heartrending, beautifully exposing an all too real emotional struggle.

Review by William Schwartz

"Journey to My Boy" is directed by Choi Wee-an and features Kim Eun-joo-II, Seo Sung-gwang, and Lee Ro-woon.

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