By Alexis C. (Rochester, NY)
If you could be born again, what would you wish to be? Would you choose to live your life differently? Would you strive to do things you wish you could have done, but never had the chance? In thinking of a second chance at life, would you be bothered to think of your mortality? In the Korean film, My Brilliant Life, this difficult question is brought to light in the telling of the heart-wrenching tale of A Reum (Seong Mok Jo), Mi Ra (Hye Kyo Song), and Dae Soo (Dong Won Kang). This film tells the story of Mi Ra and Dae Soo, the parents to 16 year-old A Reum. The 16 year-old battles is battling extremely rare genetic condition, progeria, which causes accelerated aging. Expected only to live to age of 17, A Reum spends his time writing the tale of his parents’ beginning.
As I watched this film, I felt many emotions as I tried to understand what each character was experiencing. My heart ached as I thought of the strength that Mi Ra and Dae Soo exuded in their roles as parents to a sick child. After the couple finds out Mi Ra is pregnant, they faced hardships in starting their family. Mi Ra abandoned plans of moving to Seoul to become a singer and prepared to become a mother. Dae Soo gives up his passion of Taekwondo in order to support his family. After facing falling outs with their families, abandoning their dreams, never would they imagine that their child would be born sick.
As I sympathized with these two, I also found myself trying to understand the wise view point of A Reum. Despite his age, he had educated himself, showing wisdom beyond his years. A Reum, who served as the story’s narrator, offers viewers a chance to really consider what it means to be loved. As he watches his parents struggling to make ends meet while paying his hospital bills, we see what it means to sacrifice. As we watch him witness his parents suffering as they struggle to accept their son’s fate, we see a very true expression of pain. A Reum narrates his story as someone who truly wants to live, but understands that he has very little time left to do so. As I shed tears throughout the film for each character, my sadness often paired with another feeling: respect. Respect for the fact that through it all, they remained a loving family.
Through a combination of the cast’s amazing performances, the artistic direction of E J-Yong, and the beautiful writing of the film, this movie truly makes its audience consider how much there is to be grateful for. There is so much in life we take for granted: what it means to be healthy, what it means to have time, to have time with your loved ones, to enjoy the things we love doing, and to even time to appreciate what we have.
“When do I want to live? When I see fleecy clouds in the blue sky… When I hear kids’ laughters, I want to live. On a clear day, when I smell sun-dried laundry with my mom… When I see the gruff shopkeeper cry like a girl while watching a soap opera… When I hear a granny calling out to her grandkids for dinner… When mom splashes cold water on dad’s back in the summer… When I see Venus moments after sunset with my dad… When I see blinking lights of airplanes on their night flight, I want to live.” – A Reum (translated)
My Brilliant Life is not only a beautifully made film, but a reminder that youth is fleeting and with one life to live, we need to do our best to live it to the fullest.