Just Look Away

Posted on March 11, 2011



This 2009 Korean murder movie doesn’t appear on Rotten Tomatoes. The IMDB rates it 8 out of 10 stars.

Why Bother?

Korean cinema has been making a splash. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Tae Guk Gi, and The Host all had at least limited US releases. If you’re following Korean cinema, this movie might interest you.

Also, if you like murder mysteries, the marketing text for this movie might pull you in. I’m going to talk more about marketing text and expectations in a minute.

I Watched It

Yoon Do-joon lives with his Mother, a soft-spoken herbalist and unlicensed acupuncturist, in a village in South Korea. Do-joon is mentally disabled. One night he gets drunk and follows a schoolgirl through town. The next morning, the police find the girl dead on the roof of a building. Do-joon and his friend Jin-tae recently had a run in with the police for attacking some academics on a golf course, so the police immediately suspect and arrest Do-joon. Mother can’t get any professional help to clear her son’s name, so she forms an uneasy alliance with Jin-tae and they work to find out what happened, who did it, and how they can free the perpetually muddled Do-joon.

The Verdict

If you enjoy slow, moody, atmospheric cinema (seriously, it takes almost 40 minutes before the murder happens), then you might enjoy this film. It’s certainly beautifully done. It has meaningful things to say about how we treat mentally disabled people, about how family shapes destiny, and about the strength of filial bonds.

Now, I know this is the point where I usually vent my spleen on some aspect of the film, spouting off about how it was so bad it offended me. Judging from my reader statistics, that seems to be what brings you folks back day after day (thank you for that, by the way). I’d apologize, but I’m not really sorry. This week’s column is just a bit different, that’s all.

This movie made it into our Netflix queue based on this marketing text:

A murder rocks a South Korean town and suspicion quickly falls on a reclusive, mentally challenged — and alibi-free — young man (Bin Won). When an inept public defender botches the boy’s case, his mother (Hye-ja Kim) sets out to prove her son’s innocence.

Based on that and what we knew of Oldboy, we expected Mother to go on a cold-hearted, blood-soaked, rampage to drive out the murdering criminal scum, reveal the true killer, and free her son. As we watched this for a never-ending 129 minutes*, we kept asking “Where’s the rampage? When does the rampage start?” We were very disappointed with the film when it cut to black and rolled the credits. It just didn’t deliver our expectations. You don’t want to disappoint moviegoers who expect, nay demand, blood-soaked rampages.

Fortunately, my wife and I are mature adults and we understood that we are responsible for our own expectations. I should have read the Netflix and IMDB user reviews. They would have hipped me to how slow the movie is. My advice this week is not to writers, directors, actors, or producers, but instead to all of us as fans and moviegoers: The better informed we are, the more reasonable our expectations are. The more aligned our expectations are with reality, the more we feel rewarded rather than disappointed.

Next week, I promise to rip into the worst Sherlock Holmes movie ever. I swear.

*Yes, I did that on purpose.

Need a rampage of your own?

Know something about Korean cinema? Write marketing copy for a living? Disappointed that I didn’t blow my top this week? Tell us about it in the comments.

Posted in: Marketing, Movies