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Was Mom Ever in Love?

2004/07/05 | 198 views | Permalink | Source

Kang Byeong Jin (internews)

'My Mother, the Mermaid - Little Mermaid' casts new light on mother-daughter relationships

It feels a little weird to imagine our parents in love. It's hard to imagine that they too had that tingly feeling by just thinking about or being with each other. It seems impossible, seeing them now.

The word romance just doesn't go with couples who constantly nag, yell and hurt each other. However, this denial comes from our own fear of becoming them one day -- despite our attempts not to.

"My Mother, the Mermaid" opens with a scene where woman divers surf under the sea. A woman diver slowly emerges from underwater. This scene is followed by the scene where Yeon Soon (the mother) spits out thick saliva as she emerges from the water-filled tub in a public bath.

Her daughter, Na Yeoung, is disgusted by her mother's spitting habit. She also resents the way her mother molests her father. She finds it difficult to understand why they even got married in the first place if they were so unhappy with each other.

In "My Mother, the Mermaid", Na Yeoung is not crammed with endless explanation to the situation but rather learns for herself through real-life experience. Na Yeoung does not have any happy memories of her family, and she is confronted with tedious reality. She seeks "refuge" by taking the opportunity to train abroad in New Zealand.

Her plan completely comes apart when her sick father disappears. Na Yeoung embarks on a journey to find her father. She arrives on a small island called "Hari", where her parents spent their youth in the past. Then she meets people that she does not expect. She encounters her 20-year-old mother, the woman diver and her dad, the handsome postman on a bicycle.

It's not easy to explain how a character living in the present visits the past. The logical explanation to how the character was able to visit the past is a necessity in films. However, "My Mother, the Mermaid" simply skips that part by connecting the reality and the past with matching scenes.

Moreover, the people in the past greet Na Yeoung without suspicion. Of course, this could be Na Yeoung's imagination and dream. But it could actually be a reality.

The juxtaposition of past and the present manifests itself now and then throughout the movie. The part where Yeon Soon's youth as a diver in sea makes a smooth transition to herself in her later years as a back scrubber working in a public bath signifies the basic structure of the film.

Yeon Soon's tendency to spit often comes from the spitting habit she got from diving in her youth. Na Yeoung puts such pieces together to make sense. By doing so, she finds this "journey" a short cut to the process of understanding her mother and her parents' relationship.

"My Mother, the Mermaid" reminds us of Director Yoon In Ho's "Mayonnaise" (1999) another film depicting the conflict in mother and daughter relationship. Also the director's dealing with parents' love story puts Zhao Di and Zhang Ziyi running with food featured in "The Road Home" (2001) and Yeon-Soon running with Korean pancake in direct comparison.

However, in "My Mother, the Mermaid" reconciliation is not found in the process of daughter's assimilation to her mother nor is there a reminiscence of the past. This film is somewhat different in that Na-Young comes to stand on a equal setting as her mother when she steps into the past. Moreover, Jeon Do Yeon's double-role contributes to this movie's uniqueness.

Na Yeoung witnesses her mother's true emotions and actions. As she converses with her mother without fighting, they are able to exchange honest talks about their mothers.

If the relationship between mother and daughter is the internal extension, the film "My Mother, the Mermaid" itself is an extension of Director Park Heung Sik's productions. His previous work "I Wish I Had a Wife" (2000) featured Won Ju pressing his foot against Bong Su's foot, which can be connected to Yeon Soon's act of pressing her foot against Jin Guk's footstep.

Moreover, after complaining that "If I don't look close enough, there's too much that I can't see", Won Ju goes back in time and finds his old self. As opposed to his previous work which adhered excessively to ordinary life, "My Mother, the Mermaid" deals with everyday life while retaining more flavor. Just like Na Yeoung who breaks the tedious submergence to soar up over the water surface, the director overcame the drifting and was able to reach the land.

Translation by Jennifer Park

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