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A Mere Life, directed by Park Sanghun

2.5 out of 4 stars

A Mere Life
Directed by
Park Sanghun
South Korea

You get an early hint of what sort of movie this will be in the opening scene, when Han Yurim, Park Ilrae and their son Yeongsu are going for a walk in the park. Han turns to her son at the side of a cairn, instructing him, "If you add a stone and make a wish, it will come true." Yeongsu adds a stone – and the whole cairn collapses. To say director Park Sanghun's film is unrelentingly bleak would be an understatement: every action Park takes is an ill-fated one. Unable to get or keep a job, he struggles to keep his family afloat. When a promising business deal goes awry, Park loses what little money he has. Ashamed, he brings pesticide home to poison his whole family – but somehow, he alone survives; a later attempt at suicide fails as the rope he hangs himself on breaks. As for the moral of A Mere Life – whether Park is a victim of circumstances or author of his own misfortune – that remains unclear to the bitter end.

Oct. 1, 12:45 p.m., Pacific Cinémathèque

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