Jo Byeong-man married Kang Kye-yeol, Korea was still occupied by Japan. For
seventy-six years they were a happy couple, despite never having much money.
Unfortunately, all mortal things must end. Jin Mo-young documented their final
happy days together as well as their long goodbye in the surprise Korean box-office
blockbuster, My Love, Don’t Cross that
which screens during the 2015 New York Asian Film Festival.
Jin started filming them, Jo was ninety-eight years young and his wife Kang was
a youthful eighty-nine (they were already used to cameras, as the prior
subjects of a KBS special report, Gray-Haired
Lovers). You will actually come up with some awkward numbers if you do the
math, but Kang explains her beloved was quite shy during their early years
together and willing to wait for her to mature at her own pace. Eventually,
they had twelve children together, but only six survived to see them into their
considering their respective ages, Jo and Kang are impressively spry and frisky
in the film’s initial scenes. There is no question they had a heck of a run
together. Even though their union was a semi-arranged business, they clearly
fell deeply in love. Sadly, time will finally catch up with Jo as he nears the
century point. At this point, River becomes
difficult to watch. However, our hearts really take a pummeling when Kang,
recognizing time is short, makes offerings of burnt children’s clothing to the
son and daughters they lost so long ago—but never forgot.
to everyone’s surprise, River became a
sleeper sensation in South Korea, knocking Interstellar
out of the top spot at the box-office. In their happier days, they were
certainly an adorable couple. Yet, in addition to their great romance, they
represent a bridge to the past, frequently wearing colorful traditional
garments and residing in a modest home with modern appliances, but no indoor
plumbing. They have seen it all (occupation, war, regime change, and dramatic
Tiger-era economic growth), yet they still live much as they always have.
At times, River
is uncomfortably intimate. Arguably, Jo’s painful last days merited greater
privacy. Nevertheless, the longevity of their wedded bliss is quite inspiring.
Yet, it is consolation offered by traditional rituals that provides the film’s
most quietly devastating moments. Honest and endearing, My Love, Don’t Cross that River is recommended for slice of life
doc watchers when it screens this Sunday (6/28) at the Walter Reade, as part of
this year’s NYAFF.
Labels: Documentary, Korean Cinema, NYAFF '15