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Father on Death Row

Posted September. 04, 2007 07:45,   


When asked what a family is, you may likely come up with an answer that doesn’t differ much from others. But the movie “My Father,” to be released this coming Thursday, will give you a chance to think about whether your answer is really the correct one. The film revolving around a young adult’s life appeals to our emotion but doesn’t go overboard.

James Parker (acted by Daniel Henney), a Korean adoptee raised by devoted American adoptive parents, enlists in the army and comes to Korea looking for his birth parents. Though he meets with his biological father Hwang Nam-cheol (acted by Kim Yeong-cheol) for the first time in his 22 years, he is told that his father has been sentenced to death for brutally murdering two persons. In excruciating agony, he finally comes to terms with his father. But unfortunately, another tragedy awaits him.

“My Father” is based on the life of Eron Bates whose heartbroken story was introduced through a documentary aired on KBS in 2003. There may not be many expectations for the movie since it’s a clichéd story that meets a novice model-turned-actor Daniel Henney.

It goes beyond our expectation, however. The audience’s hearts will be warmed when Parker says to his father over the glass wall of the prison in his broken Korean, “At night ……it’s cold….. be careful not to catch a cold,” and when son and dad, with the wall between them, take a picture of themselves. And their hearts will shatter when he wails in such anger that makes his face muscles pronounced and his eyes turn red, “My father is a murderer.” The director inserted humorous scenes deftly not to make the story too serious, and he made good use of episodes that happen in the U.S. Army’s barracks in a way that doesn’t provoke Koreans’ antipathy against American soldiers.

Though Daniel Henney is now embroiled in a fake academic credential scandal, with this movie, he is given an opportunity to make his career as an actor, shaking off his fixed image of the “perfect guy.”

Drawing on his own experience, he did well in the part of an adoptee. Once he said in an interview, “My mother was an adopted child, and I am of mixed heritage. As we were the only Asians in our town, I was teased by my peers and, like Parker in the movie, I dyed my hair yellow.” One of Korea’s veteran actors, Kim Yeong-cheol was also up to his reputation. His adroit acting evoked sympathy as well as hostility from the audience.

The film has already encountered criticism in that it glorifies a murderer, and the victims’ families are opposing its release. But the producer of the movie asks them to be generous and see it from the perspective of Bates since it is the adaptation of his real story. The judgment is left to the audience. “My Father” is available for 15 years of age and over.