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As part of its August slate of titles, The Criterion Collection is releasing Secret Sunshine on Blu-ray, and whether you knew it before just now, you want to win a copy. An effortless mix of light and uncompromising darkness, Secret Sunshine (Miryang) stars Cannes best actress winner Jeon Do-yeon (The Housemaid) as a widowed piano teacher who moves with her young son from Seoul to her late husband’s provincial hometown for a fresh start. 2) Comment below telling us what film would you like to see added to The Criterion Collection? On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home.
Jeon Do-yeon won the prize for Best Actress there and SECRET SUNSHINE has been submitted as the official Korean submission for Best Foreign Language Film for the Oscars. Suddenly she’s faced with new tragedy, her only friend, a kind misfit who works as a mechanic (played by the inimitable Song Kang-ho) stands by her side, trying to love her and give her some hope, some salvation in the senseless of what life has offered her.
The fact that IFC Films gives same-day OnDemand as theatrical release is an incredible gift and I think few of us realize in fact how great it is. On a final note, there was a long lapse between Chang-dong Lee’s last work OASIS and SECRET SUNSHINE.
Secret Sunshine (Milyang) is yet another masterpiece from director Chang-dong Lee, who had served as South Korea's Minister of Culture and Tourism, and before had brought us such amazing drama as Oasis.
Grieving widow Shin-ae (Do-yeon Jeon) with her son June moves to the hometown of her late husband in hopes of starting their life's anew with a clean sheet.
As Chang-dong Lee has previously shown, he masterfully plays with human emotions, in this work he portrays stricken and worn by grief woman, who seeks means and answers to deal with the tragedy that pursues and devastates her. This movie strongly touches and explores impact of religion and church on people in their most vulnerable states, how and if faith can heal and provide shelter for the ones that suffer.
HollowPointAugust 20, 2012 at 5:17 PMGreat blog, I discovered many brilliant movies because of it.
During the years I have developed a passion for Asian cinema so I will be posting movies from South Korea and possibly other Asian countries that I have seen and think they are worth watching.
Here is the movie trailer for the feature film "Secret Sunshine" Please enable JavaScript to watch this video. Rooting your phone is one thing, but to truly be in control of your device, you need to be S-Off. S-Off allows you to flash, mod, and tweak just about any aspect of your phone, including the ability to run custom recoveries and flash kernels, which are vital tools for power-users. While that's great for the execs over at HTC, it has been a huge pain in the ass for most users, none more so than SunShine Team. I agree with one of the other commentators that the movie also seemed to be an updated version of the Book of Job.
Shin-ae also learns that God is there in the silence (a la Elijah on the mountain, God is in the silence).
I thought that his holding the mirror was an apt closing image for the discourse of 'pretense' and allusion that was a recurring theme in the movie. I’m not even going to lie and pretend I’m some sort of film critic, just a 16 year old with an appreciation for movies. Though I must say, the continuous chain of misfortunes was somewhat too much for me to bear, and it left a bitter taste once the credits came. I see a lot of people complaining about the runtime, but i still think this would be better with some more background, maybe reaching 160min.
I see no reason why the director would do this, the things left unexplained are not philosophical or thought provoking ideas, they are just simple background stories that could add more if they were explained. You can see them as flaws but i think the director wanted the viewer to work these things out on his own. I get your idea with “The Stranger”, but like most of Camus books, it is a philosophical statement. Very few directors (or auteurs) are successful when working with the level of abstraction needed to present something like “The Stranger’s” plot. I completely agree with you that Jeon Do-Yeon’s acting was needed, and the movie would suffer a lot without it and without Song Kang-Ho’s supporting role to balance it.
It is not that i think it is surreal, but it is too much (real and honest situations), being shown without empathy enough. Questions like “Was she seeing herself in the murderer’s daughter?”, “Did she compare the murderer behavior towards his daughter with her own father’s attitude towards herself?”, “If so, why she never ever helped his daughter and was so angry with her?”, “Every normal person with debts is a potential danger?”, “Bad parent, good killer (there is definitely not a normal murder, it asks for a certain degree of sociopathy)?”. There is an interesting idea left as well, she is so overwhelmed with this feeling of helplessness and loneliness (from God), that she fails to perceive the amount of people helping and behaving as friends, mostly Jong-Chan.
I think we’re on similar paths but you prefer more “cohesive” and “conscise”, while I like a bit of ambiguity in the mix as well. I dont agree with your description that Secret Sunshine was just a tour de force vehicle for Jeon Do-Yeon.
The amount of grief the main character went through was brutal, but I didn’t find it to be unrealistic or a drawback to the film.
With the religious aspect of the film, I thought it worked well, in a similiar manner as Albert Camus’ “The Stranger”.
Indeed, yours is a positive look into the movie plot, and i actually agree with you, my criticism is actually about the amazing amount of disgrace that happens with just one single person.
But i believe that the message is, at least in part, freeing yourself from any grudge to become better. Oasis is indeed a love story, but it is more about communication and it explores it so perfectly and in a cohesive sympathetic way.
Don’t get me wrong, i think the movie is great, but lacks cohesion and conciseness that would make it better, IMO.
I just hope that Lee Chang-dong will make more technically great movies closer to Oasis style. As stated in the review, an important segment that may tell you what Lee Chang-dong is thinking are the two brief scenes with the shop owner.
I watched this one only once at a screening in Korea the day before the offical release, so my recollection isn’t as clear as it was back then…but those points have stayed in my mind. Do-yeon Jeon acting is outstanding, but her character is unsympathetic and sometimes annoying, as the movie. The movie story is quite mature, honest and true, leaving the feeling of something Hong Sang Soo would write, but in a more “commercial” or maybe “mainstream” way.

But, in the end, it is a great movie, not as good as Oasis (which i also think has a better acting by both leading actors), but still very recommended due to the original story and technical quality. It's no secret Do-yeon Jeon is a wonderful actress, just reference her performance in "You Are My Sunshine" or "My Mother Is A Mermaid" as proof. Meanwhile, Kang-ho Song seems to get better and better with each movie that he performs in.
The structure of the story itself is unusual in that it flows in an unexpected nature, starts off as a romantic drama, then a thriller, then turns into one lady's descent into her own heart of darkness. Secret Sunshine is a movie that will likely stay in your mind for days after seeing the movie. Though its title makes it sound like a late period album from a pop act desperate for critical respectability, Secret Sunshine is quiet, disarming, and sensitive in its portrayal of the grief process and the ultimate emergence from it. Quietly expressive, supple filmmaking and sublime, subtle performances distinguish this remarkable portrayal of the search for grace amid tragedy. She is a writer and Sr Programming Manager for [ ITVS], overseeing the International Initiative for funding in their SF office.
This movie landed it's main star Do-yeon Jeon Best Actress Award a Cannes Film Festival in 2007, also it was South Korea's submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2008. In this small town, she opens up a Piano school and tries her best to fit in with others, but local residents are quite reluctant to her attempts. Amazing performance by Do-yeon Jeon as she excels in providing insight into most dismal corners of the mind. Up until now, there have been many ways to S-Off your device, but some newer HTC models have become un-exploitable.
Her husband has recently passed away and she has decided to start life anew back in the hometown of her deceased husband.
As Shin-Ae must deal with another devastating tragedy in her life, she attempts to find answers and a light that can shine upon her dark life.
Then after Lee Chang-Dong's resignation as Korea's Minister of Culture Tourism he began working on "Secret Sunshine" in earnest. The main character intentionally gives the impression of having more money than she does in actuality, even going to the trouble of viewing land that she has no real intention of buying.
The boy's teacher is shown to lead the children through many lessons highlighting moral courage and character when he is actually a terrible child abductor and murderer. The evangelical church that, at first, seems to offer Shin-ae so much hope, then is proven to also offer the murderer a 'cheap grace'.
Hypocrisy is also highlighted in the scene when she plays the song "LIES" during the outdoor prayer service. Shin-ae's conversation about God with the Pharmacist revolves around the theme of appearances (what can be seen) and what is not seen.
The conversion experience when Shin-ae is born again, is one where there is a very very strong wind, resembling God who speaks out of the whirlwind. In her misery (after she pulls away from the church and she is shown lying there in the quiet in the hospital. It suggested to me that she was starting over, and there was some hint that she was going to 'give' in to the so-called friendship (bordering on stalking!) with Kim the mechanic. Here, she who was critical of other people's hypocrisy in this new town (miryang), is then shown a mirror that shows her that she herself is no different, no better than them.
Secret Sunshine was defnitely a nice introduction to independent films, and it’s a pleasant change from the over the top blockbusters hollywood throws at my face.
It looks more like pressure from the production company to cut the runtime a bit, leaving the movie more “watchable” or commercial. So, it is not actually about the story of a single real person, but an idealization, an abstract reality made to represent an statement. Andrei Tarkovsky and Bela Tarr are quite excellent with this, but its their style as well, and if you compare they are completely different from “Secret Sunshine”, although all of them explore this feeling of abandonment from God.
But that is exactly what i was trying to point, the movie is dependent on her role, and centered at it. The flow is too fast and raw; i couldn’t cry a single tear or even have the feeling i would. Obviously you can speculate about all this, but what i mean is that the movie rushed over all this and many more questions. As most people who suffer those kinds of breakdowns, they seem to go through a battery of traumatic situations not just one singular moment.
In fact after all the tragedy occurred to Shin-Ae, her then emotional evolvement paralleled Mersualt’s from the Stranger in a near quid pro quo fashion.
It is true that her psychological state makes her more prone to religiosity, something the movie also tries to explore. The interior of the store has now been painted white by the owner … and she’s smiling with happiness that she didn’t have before when the store’s interior was black. Nothing brings an uproar faster than the topic of religion and Secret Sunshine doesn't hold back in questioning the existence of God or critiquing the role of religion in society. The director of the film, Chang-dong Lee, is highly regarded in Korea for his three prior films "Oasis" "Peppermint Candy" and "Green Fish." Chang-dong Lee's prior film "Oasis" brought the director international acclaim, wining the prestigious Director's Award at the 2003 Venice Film Festival. Yet, the brevity of pain she was able to express during her descent into darkness in "Secret Sunshine" was something to absolutely marvel at. The story was utterly riveting, while the performances by Do-yeon Jeon and Kang-ho Song were nothing short of brilliant. Starring Cannes best acress award winner Jeon Do-yeon as a piano teacher who returns to her husband’s hometown with her son following his death, Sunshine looks at death through the same clear lens that Atom Egoyan did in The Sweet Hereafter; careful, probing, and totally devoid of sentiment. Local car mechanic Jong Chan (Kang-ho Song) that she first met on her way to the town when her car broke down, shows interest in her and helps to settle in. I thought it was well-done, both for the acting, but also for the many levels in which the unifying themes of the movie emerged.
She also lavishly spends money on a dinner and karaoke outing to entertain new friends, with money that she does not really have. His speech is all about what a wonderful doting mother he has, but we from what we can see in the actual movie, we know that she is basically not really doting. She had put on a show of forgiving the murderer, but then when she actually saw the murderer, it seems that she really wanted to see how much he was suffering in prison.

She is the only one who has been known clearly for what she is is, and she is the one whom Shin-ae sees in the hair salon. In this reading, the pharmacist and the church-goers serve as 'Job's friends" who all offer what is ultimately an unsatisfying explanation for life's sufferings. She continually resisted his advances-- I thought this was because she assumed that she was 'better' or a little more sophisticated than him; but the closing image at the end suggested that she realied that she was no better (focus on the 'muddy' puddle in the back yard and the untidy yard).
She also lacks integrity for her own efforts to project a false image of herself as somehow better than them. That is why the conception of an abstract idea that “The Stranger” presents is difficult to be achieved with such a strong and real personification. She moves to a small city looking for peace then her son is kidnapped and murdered, while she loses every single penny she has saved.
In the beginning she refuses and even becomes a bit angry when invited to church, then later she throws herself completely into it. Oasis as a love story of the unexpected kind, while Secret Sunshine tells a devastating story of one woman’s descent into darkness. Oasis is an amazing movie, while being very technical it is still very sympathetic, something “Secret Sunshine” lacks. While a very sinister dissection of Shin-ae’s life is done, a collection of criticism towards so many things is brought up, like church, friendship, relationships, trust… in the end it looks like the plot becomes a bit pointless. Shortly after the release of "Oasis," Chang-dong Lee was even appointed as Korea's minister of culture and tourism.
During the final portions of the movie my hands were literally clenched to the armrests, out of this gripping fear of what she could possibly do next.
Vengeance," it seems Kang-ho Song plays nice characters that are bumbling in nature, but able to conquer whatever obstacles are placed in his way. Some clues to what Chang-dong Lee may have tried to convey upon the audience can be revealed (without giving away the crux of the movie) by two brief scenes that occurred at the beginning and end of the film. Questions that are often asked internally, but not as often asked in films, were boldly asked in Secret Sunshine. Jeon won Best Actress at Cannes in 2007 for her portrayal of a woman who turns to Christianity after loss and finds it wanting as well. It's an excellent introduction for those of you looking for an introduction to the flourishing world of Korean film-making, and to one of its most prominent artists Lee Chang-dong.
As the time goes on, and everything seems quietly to take turn for the best, another event that shakes her life occurs. She is able to get the local mechanic in Milyang named Jong-Xhan (Song Kang-Ho) to come out to her car and start it once again. For me, it highlighted the theme of hypocrisy and false appearances, even among those who protest the use of false appearances. She plays piano for the chairman, but then her performance comes to a screeching halt when she must admit that she is not as good as she was made out to be. She is just the same; all of the characters are hypocritical and operate on false allusions-- she just becomes self-aware of her own false allusions at the end when she looks into the mirror. Than, her family kinda turns against her saying she is a bad omen… she becomes a more dark person… so many stereotypes that you can actually write 10 different movies. Notice the words Shin-Ae imparts on the boutqiue owner “if you change the interior you’ll likely have more customers”. His character in Secret Sunshine followed this motif somewhat, but during a scene towards the end of the film, I literally jumped out of my seat when he displayed an unexpected fit of rage.
When Shin-ae first came to Milyang, she went around town to solicit business for her piano lessons. The answers were never clearly revealed in the film, but left to be answered internally by the viewer themselves.
A wrenching descent into madness or the resistance of a sturdy soul against whatever may come?
We have an extra copy of Secret Sunshine on Blu-ray to give away, so one lucky reader is going win it. Entry for contest must be left in the comments section specific to this contest (article) to be counted. Although they come from different social backgrounds, the pair hits it off and seems to find comfort in each other’s presence.
That Miryang is just like everyone else (ie that everyone, including those people from Seoul) are all engaging in false-pretences is emphasized in the beginning and the end when Kim the Mechanic says that Miryang is just the same as all other cities. Both dynamite performances in my opinion, but not fair to call out one but not the other as they are of the same quality. Those words of wisdom are something Shin-Ae would have to apply with her own life once it spins out of control. In Oasis, Moon So-Ri amazed with her unforgettable portrayal of a young lady afflicted with cerebral palsy.
As a testament to his performance, horror movies never made me jump up from my seat, but Kang-ho Song certainly did.
She walked into a small clothing boutique and struck up a brief conversation with the owner of the store. Similar to Moon So-Ri's memorable performance in Oasis, Secret Sunshine has Do-yeon Jeon giving a performance that is equal to, if not more, powerful.
Yet, the manner in which his character was portrayed, you couldn't help to think that he was indeed a real life angel in Shin-Ae's life. The owner seemed to hold a grim internal mood, hidden somewhat by her stiff exterior expression. The boutique itself seemed to get very little business, while the interior of the store was painted all black. Shin-Ae gently smiled and offered this tip to the boutique owner before walking out, "If you change the interior to a brighter color, people will likely feel more comfortable and want to come into your store." At the end of the movie, the boutique owner had indeed re-designed the interior of her store, with the walls painted all in white. When the shop owner saw Shin-Ae, she smiled and laughed with happiness that she did not possess in her earlier scene.

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