Old versus young; traditional versus modern; urban versus rural. These conflicts come to the fore in "The Way Home," a touching and heart-breaking new film (85 minutes, rated PG) from writer and director Jeong-Hyang Lee.
Bratty Sang-woo is a spoiled Seoul boy who meets his grandmother for the first time when his mom takes him to her country home when she needs some time to get her life together and go in search of work.
Sang-woo wants the luxuries of the modern world and he arrives in the beautiful Korean countryside, literally kicking and screaming, with a six-pack of Coke, a noisy video game and a supply of SPAM. His grandmother, bent from years of toil and mute, is a stranger to him and he's not willing to open up to her.
This, despite the fact that she seems more than a little eager to please. When he wants "Kentucky chicken," she attempts to satisfy his urge by walking in the rain to get a live chicken, which she kills, plucks and boils only to have him rebuke her.
However, she is used to living among the breathtaking hills; to living a life of solitude and of simplicity; a life close to the earth. This is not the life Sang-woo wants any part of. He's terrified of bugs, bored with natural beauty and determined not to warm up to granny.
But, predictably, as the pair spends time together, he can't help but be charmed by her silent and self-less doting and informed by her quiet and earthy wisdom. When she seems ill, his kindness is sparked and he cares for her.
Then Sang-woo's life hits an all-time low when his video game's batteries die. He steals from his grandmother to try and replace them, without success. But when they take a trip to town to sell produce, he begins to realize that his grandmother's selflessness is worthy of his admiration and reciprocation. Thanks to a cute young neighbor girl, he also begins to see some upsides to his current situation.
Although pretty easy to figure out early on, "The Way Home" has a timeless message and a peaceful serenity that makes it a joy to watch. Along the way, Eul-Boon Kim, who plays grandmother and Seung-Ho Yoo, who plays Sang-woo, will break your heart and inspire you to pick up the phone and call your own granny.
"The Way Home" opens Fri., March 7 at Landmark's Downer Theatre.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.