Oasis

Chang-dong Lee's offbeat, leisurely love story chronicles the relationship between an awkward ex-convict and an exploited young woman with cerebral palsy. Newly released from jail in the middle of winter wearing the thin summer clothes in which he was arrested for vehicular homicide two-and-a-half years earlier, Jong-du (Kyung-gu Sol) makes his way to his...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Chang-dong Lee's offbeat, leisurely love story chronicles the relationship between an awkward ex-convict and an exploited young woman with cerebral palsy. Newly released from jail in the middle of winter wearing the thin summer clothes in which he was arrested for vehicular homicide two-and-a-half years earlier, Jong-du (Kyung-gu Sol) makes his way to his family's apartment only to find that they've moved and left no forwarding address. After he's arrested for trying to run out on a restaurant bill, Jong-du's younger brother, Jong-Sae (Seung-wan Ryoo), shows up to bail him out and take him to the cramped apartment their older brother, Jong-Il (Nae-sang Ahn), shares with their mother (Jing-gu Kim) and his wife (Gui-jeong Chu) and small son. Jong-du receives a chilly welcome, but Jong-Il gets him a job as a delivery boy and tells him he can sleep in the office of his small car-repair shop. Jong-du does little to endear himself to his family; perhaps he isn't capable. He invariably rubs other people the wrong way, standing too close, laughing inappropriately, blurting out unseemly remarks with childlike directness that's disconcerting in a 29-year-old man. He pays an ill-considered visit to the family of the sanitation worker he ran down, bearing cheerful greetings and a fruit basket. The dead man's son, Sang-shik (Byung-ho Sohn), is horrified and angry, as anyone less oblivious than Jong-du would have expected, and he and his pregnant wife (Ga-hyun Yung) are in the middle of moving out. Sang-shik's disabled sister, Gong-ju (Moon So-ri), is remaining behind, and Jung-du sees in her something more than twisted limbs and strangled speech. He returns later and tries to rape her, fleeing mid-assault, then comes back to apologize. Gong-ju is so desperate for attention that she's willing to give him a second chance, having been abandoned by her own family once they successfully scammed their way into a building complex for the disabled using her name. Left behind in their old slum apartment, Gong-ju relies on the ministrations of indifferent neighbors; her outings with Jong-du, whatever his shortcomings, are liberating. They develop a tender friendship that deepens into love, but it founders on their families' prejudices and their own inability to accommodate narrow-minded social norms. The combination of Lee's discomforting subject matter and distancing style — calculating artlessness punctuated by occasional flights of lyrical fantasy — makes this slow-moving drama a challenge that doesn't seem entirely worth the effort.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Chang-dong Lee's offbeat, leisurely love story chronicles the relationship between an awkward ex-convict and an exploited young woman with cerebral palsy. Newly released from jail in the middle of winter wearing the thin summer clothes in which he was arre… (more)

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