MY LOVE, DON’T CROSS THAT RIVER

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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The ghost of Yazujiro Ozu fills the observing eye that is director Jin Mo-young’s, capturing the tiniest moment of quotidian domestic activities in this often humorous, but ultimately heartbreaking documentary My Love, Don’t Cross that River. Husband and wife Jo Byong-man and Kang Gye-yeul have been together since she was 14 and he was about 20. They have been through the worst of times together, struggled through poverty, raised six out of twelve children, (some who make brief appearances here for Kang’s birthday, an event that ends in tears, implying some prior, off-screen family dysfunction), and now live alone, in near peaceful solitude, going through simple activities like lovers who just met and are still entranced by each others presence. Watching them play through the snow, splash each other with river water, or exchange chrysanthemums as Jo sings to Kang is moving, indeed. One not need to know the language or even pause to read the subtitles; as a matter of fact, I found myself entranced by the sheer expression of love that these two, who have been together for 75 or 76 years (they can’t quite remember), could express to each other. So, imagine what happens as Jo’s health declines and they go through the loss of one dog (Kiddo, a poodle) and see another one, whom they call Freebie, give birth to seven puppies. It’s a slow, but resigned march to the inevitable, one that Kang knows well. While she says she accepts what has to eventually happen, one cannot be prepared for the sheer outpour of emotion that overwhelms the camera and lingers on — again, much in the style of Ozu — as she begins the process of mourning. This is one of the most devastating “little movies” I’ve seen in a long time. If you see it, have a box of Kleenex handy, and do tell your loved ones how much they are worth to you. If anything, this remarkable documentary is evidence of the power of love (as cliche as it may sound), but also, the frailty of life itself.

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