Go to contents

“Hello Brother”: Finding Family Affection through Tears

“Hello Brother”: Finding Family Affection through Tears

Posted May. 19, 2005 23:29,   


Family movies are movies that the whole family can watch together, or movies that are meant to explore the meaning of family. If a movie satisfies both criteria, it will be a movie that fits perfectly into the category. Some examples from recent Korean family movies include “Family,” which took family itself as a title, and “Marathon,” which was watched by over five million moviegoers. However, “Family” had a few violent scenes inappropriate for the whole family to watch and “Marathon,”’ although fit to be called a family movie, did not first start as a one.

In this respect, “Hello Brother,” opening on May 27, is a challenge. It is the first movie since the production company, MK Pictures, announced, “We will set family movies as one of our main genres and continue making such movies.” MK Pictures said that it benchmarked perennial family movie maker Disney. This is another challenge for “Hello Brother.” Disney’s family movies usually deal with reconciliation and union between parents and children through marriage or divorce, while this movie chose to deal with a family member getting a terminal disease. In other words, the death of a family member.

Hence, setting aside whether or not “Hello Brother” will successfully overcome the challenges, the movie itself is significant in that it chose to face those challenges. That is like fathers showing up on a family TV program and accepting extremely difficult challenges—such as “spinning, throwing, and cutting an egg in half with a stainless spatula used for pan frying” or “pulling out a tablecloth while leaving the cups and dishes on top of the table”—and failing, but receiving a warm hug from the family.

Nine-year-old Han-yi (Park Ji-bin) has a 12-year-old brother, Han-byul (Seo Dae-han). Han-yi does not treat his docile older brother properly and plays pranks on him. Suddenly, Han-byul is diagnosed with a brain tumor, undergoes brain surgery, and is hospitalized in the pediatric ward. Their mother (Bae Jong-ok) is so busy taking care of Han-byul that she can’t really care for Han-yi, and their father (Park Won-sang) threatens Han-yi, “I will give a pocket book to your older brother, so he can make a note of every time you bother him.” Han-yi feels that his brother is fonder of Wook-yi (Choi Woo-hyuk), another kid in the pediatric ward who suffers from the same illness. Hence, Han-yi’s worries begin.

Just as in TV documentaries like “24-Hour Hospital,” the story of a family with a child suffering from a serious illness is more than enough to draw tears. Nevertheless, “Hello Brother” shows clear signs of efforts to refrain from such conditioned reflex tears. Ten minutes into the movie, when the mother is crying with guilt, “I am such a worthless mother, to let my son lose his sight (brain tumors weaken optical nerves causing eyesight to worsen),” the camera withdraws from the hospital and focuses on the mental growth of Han-yi.

Han-yi learns through adventures with Wook-yi and incidents with show-off classmate Jun-tae that the world does not revolve only around him. That is a painful experience for a nine-year-old child. However, that is the price that he has to pay to learn the value of the people close around him and become a boy who will do anything for them.

In the end, the movie finishes before we use up the tissues prepared to wipe tears. Although it falls a little short, if one puts the “family movie” concept aside, the movie can be seen as a film about growth. Perhaps with Disney in mind, the movie treats the entrance of “Tarzan man,” who acts like a primitive in the mountains, as a fantasy sequence, somewhat interrupting the flow of the movie. The scene where Bae Jong-ok and Oh Ji-hye (mother of Wook-yi) fill the sinks of the hospital bathrooms and submerge their heads to cry will long be remembered. The movie opens on May 27. Rated G.

Dong-Yong Min mindy@donga.com