Story: Da-hae (Song Hye-kyo) lost her fiancé Sang-woo (Ki Tae-yeong). He got killed by a teenager who intentionally ran him over.
Her Catholic religion makes her forgive the culprit and she even signs a petition with which she asks for a reduced sentence. But her forgiveness seems
only to be the result of exterior pressure, especially from her church, and the fact that she believes to be able to ease her pain that way. The girl
Ji-min (Nam Ji-hyeon) teaches her wrong eventually. Ji-min sees Da-hae as her big sister and always comes to her when she is hit at home. Her smart
questions make Da-hae doubt that she is sincere concerning her forgiveness. Moreover, Da-hae is conducting interviews for her church in which relatives
of victims talk about their forgiveness. Looking at these people there start to show some gaps in Da-hae's defense mechanisms which help her
to avoid facing the pain of her loss.
Review: This overall well written drama about forgiveness and loss can score with its honesty and very good dialogues, yet often
loses sight of what is supposed to be the aim of the story in the end. Accordingly the ending can't be really convincing. A film with this subject,
and this we are quite aware of from the get-go, can't deliver any definite answer. This would even be presumptuous if you look at it closely. In fact
this quiet drama can make you reflect, but too often the story runs around in circles. Yet, "A Reason to Live" is a drama that has been panned by many
and unjustly so. This may be the case because the film naturally had to be compared to female director Lee Jeong-hyang's former work "The Way Home".
After nine years Lee's newest film in fact can't be considered to be on the same level as her former work. However, this time the director takes an interesting path, too. On a regular basis the story is told through flashbacks which aren't easily to be made out as such at first. Furthermore, many scenes are solely dreams, thoughts or the imagination of an alternative reality. It often isn't easy to make out what kind of purpose the director is aiming at with this. Since a dream world consistently enters the movie you oftentimes don't know what to think of "A Reason to Live" because after all in its core the drama is actually convincing thanks to its honest dialogues and believable characters.
Song Hye-kyo, mainly known for her roles in drama series such as "Full House" or the period drama "Hwang Jin-yi", plays a complex individual who apparently is lying to herself and tries to be a better person than she actually can be. Religion is playing a major part in her life, especially since her loss and so she blindly believes in a transfigured religion of forgiveness, like Jesus who was able to forgive his tormentors. But the human mind isn't made for not feeling any hatred. Da-hae couldn't process the trauma of her loss, the wound she suffered couldn't heal, it has only been covered by a bandage. That this bandage can't ease the pain of the continuously weeping wound should be obvious.
Forgiveness and religion is something we already came across in Lee Chang-dong's "Secret Sunshine", but in "A Reason to Live" the subject is dealt with in a more naturalistic manner and in a way also through some anecdotes. Responsible for that are the interviews by Da-hae but also the conversations between her and Ji-min. In their talking duels the movie consistently gets to the core of the different aspects of the forgiveness-subject and leaves no room for easy answers. If Ji-min weren't an interesting individual herself, who has to struggle with her own problems like the abuse from her father, the dialogues between the two women easily could have had something contrived about them. We get a closer look behind the walls of these completely opposite characters, and so Ji-min doesn't even want to understand why she should forgive her father. Eventually, the two profit from each other's thoughts.
Sadly, it can't be denied that "A Reason to Live" struggles with a pacing that is too leasure, the script also tends to repeat itself and yet at the end still owes us an answer or at least a structure in the film. Moreover, the discussions between the two girls may become tiring for some viewers after a while. If it weren't for the aforementioned honesty that runs through the whole film the drama easily could have missed its goal. On the other hand the director can't really miss her goal since she didn't set one. This failure is certainly to be considered the biggest weakness of the drama and prevents it to reach the class of the director's former works.