Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Punch (2011)

3/5*

Punch is a Korean film from 2011 and it's available for instant streaming on Netflix.

I've been pleasantly surprised by the last several Korean films I've watched. Most of those have been action films, or pretty big budget films, so I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised by a different sort of film this time.

The film is based on a very popular novel from Korea called Wandeuk by Kim Ryeo-ryeong.  It's a coming of age story about a boy named Wan-deuk, of course, who is a rebellious high school student who comes from a poor family and regularly gets into fights. His mother left when he was very young and his dad is a hunchback who worked as a cabaret clown with Wan-deuk's uncle until their nightclub was closed down.  Now they have to leave home to find work elsewhere leaving Wan-deuk to fend for himself.  

We meet Lee Dong-ju who is Wan-deuk's unconventional, and hard-nosed home room teacher, and soon find out he lives right across from Wan-deuk.  We also come to find out that Wan-deuk's father had asked Dong-ju to keep an eye on Wan-deuk while they are away.  I can't speak for everyone, but I think it's a fear for most high school students to have to run into a teacher outside of school, and yet Wan-deuk has to endure his toughest teacher checking in on him on a daily basis.  However, obviously, this turns out to be exactly what he needs.  Dong-ju is not just hard-nosed in the classroom, he gives Wan-deuk the tough love he needs to start finding himself and a path for his life.  

We've seen films before about inspirational teachers who have gotten involved in rebellious student's lives and helped turn them around, but I don't think we've met one quite like Dong-ju.
Yun-seok Kim does an excellent job playing the teacher/mentor for Wan-deuk. He knows to help bring Wan-deuk's mother back into his life, and that while maybe his studies are a lost cause, what he really needs is a dream to focus on. How many teachers do we see with the practicality to say that a student's studies are a lost cause and he should focus his attention elsewhere? With this in mind, Dong-ju encourages Wan-deuk takes up kickboxing which allows him to focus his attention on something that will also allow him to let his stress out. This is a character who is going through a lot, and he by no means has things easy.

Wan-deuk finds out his mother is Filipino, and doesn't work that far away. Some of the most touching moments in the film come when Wan-deuk spends time with his mother, and when he is asked, "who is this?" he is finally able to say the words, "this is my mother."

While Wan-deuk is the main character and we follow his story throughout, there is a fairly large cast of lovable characters and each are interesting in their own ways.

This is a film I had never heard of before. I randomly stumbled across in while looking over my Netflix recommendations and I'm glad I did. It's definitely worth watching.