AsianMovieWeb logo
Original Title:

South Korea 2009

Drama, Comedy

Jeong Gi-hoon

Choi Kang-hee
Kim Yeong-ae
Bae Soo-bin
Choi Il-hwa
Sa Hyeon-jin
Baek Seung-hwan
Park Yun-nam
Go Geon-yeong
Kim Si-yeong
Seo Beom-seok
Park Yong-je

Search AsianMovieWeb

Goodbye Mom

aka Aeja

Story: Park Ae-ja (Choi Kang-hee) tries to succeed as a writer for years already, but even though without a doubt she has talent, she doesn't make the breakthrough. Her mother Yeong-hee (Kim Yeong-ae), a veterinary, slowly starts to worry about Ae-ja, because her bad temper and tomboyish behavior did get her into trouble more than just once already. Yeong-hee finally wants her daughter to be married for her to be financially secured, but Ae-ja doesn't want to know anything about that and even keeps her boyfriend (Bae Soo-bin) a secret. Mother and daughter clash on several occasions, but one day Yeong-hee has a relapse and is brought to the hospital. She has cancer that has been dormant for a while, but now is coming back worse than before. An operation is only possible when Yeong-hee's blood count allows it and so she first has to diet and take certain drugs. Ae-ja doesn't want her mother to stay at the hospital and takes her back home where she takes care of her. Before her life comes to an end Yeong-hee wants to see Ae-ja taken care of and so she eventually manages to talk her into going on a blind date. Behind the difficult relationship of mother and daughter only hides the fear that Yeong-hee actually might leave this world in the near future.

Review: "Goodbye Mom" undoubtedly had to endure some scepticism on my part. A film with that title, a mother that suffers from cancer and almost two hours running time sound like a lot of handkerchief use for all those who can't look through the pattern so typical for these kind of movies. But the film proves to be more mature than that. What does that mean? For one thing the use of tears is pretty economical, at least until the movie's last third, for another thing the actually interesting relationship between mother and daughter is in the foreground, a relationship that is at first glance quite typical in Korea, but which gets pepped up by two individuals that are likeable in their own right. Therefore, the two protagonists stand as the movie's true strength and create a character-orientated drama that deserves our attiontion at any point. Even if the drama is quite predictable in some respects that can't be overlooked the many scenes between mother and daughter make up for it. Their unique relationship also leads to the fact that the film had quite some box-office success thanks to word-of-mouth advertisement.

Ae-ja is bold, foul-mouthed and disrespectful. She gets into physical fights with other girls, whereas she naturally always stands as the winner in the end, and gets into prison because of that, too. She also doesn't know any respect towards adults, be it teachers, physicians or priests. Of course, this made her get a few beatings in her life before, but she doesn't seem to have learnt anything from them. She also endures the beatings she gets from her mother when she strikes the wrong note like so many times before. Even though she doesn't really strike the wrong one but instead provokes her surroundings very consciously. Behind her boyish facade and her tough outer shell there hides in fact a poetic soul, at least that's what she believes and some chosen ones who get to see her literary works. Unfortunately, it's not that easy to establish oneself as an author and so she has to take some throwbacks. In her family she naturally inherits the role of the black sheep like her brother for example tells his fiance who already clashed with Ae-ja before.

This black sheep actually seems to be standing in the movie's focus, at least when you look at the original title of the movie which is "Aeja", of course. However, we soon understand that in her life her mother and her relationship with her has a very special meaning to her, so that we start to wonder at some point, if the film's title couldn't have been "Yeong-hee" all the same. The mother is a veterinary who has a big heart which is also apparent by the fact that she takes in homeless sick dogs. Apparently, she has also lived her life mainly for her childrens' sake, raising and fostering them. Of course, only Ae-ja makes her worry, but her constant tirades and subtle attempts of exortion to get her on a date prove to be pretty fruitless. In the beginning a love-hate motive is running through the whole relationship between mother and daughter. Later on, when it becomes clear that Yeong-hee will die should the operation not take place in the very near future, her true feelings slowly shine through. Ae-ja lets her tough shell peel off and we get to see the part of her which we actually always assumed to be in her: a daughter who is in deep fear to lose her mother.

The last third is also the most arduous. That is because both have to cope with the idea that it might be over soon as death is waiting for no one in the end. Here the whole drama comes to bear. Emotionally the film might do everything right, but to show Yeong-hee in all her pain and suffering may not really fit into the more cheerful rest of the movie to be honest. Therefore, the filmmakers try to get on the right track again and reduce the drama at the end again by creating a conciliatory and warm ending, which interestingly enough even works out well.
Choi Kang-hee ("My Scary Girl") delivers a fine performance as the daughter and also succeeds in giving her character some more depth. However, more than once she is outshined by veteran Kim Yeong-ae who plays the part of the mother and knows how to deliver her more tough character traits - as already stated a hearty-brutal relationship between mother and daughter isn't that uncommen - as well as her more soft sides as her vulnerability shows to advantage especially towards the end.

A few side characters also enrich the movie, for example Ae-ja's boyfriend or her friend who comes home after a long stay abroad, but too often these individuals stand in the background like props. Only her brother as well as his wife actually seem to be important the the film's story. Apart from that there is in fact nothing special about the story written by director Jeong Gi-hoon, but the relationship between the two main characters simply works out and stands as the actual fascinating element of the film. Still, you can't call the movie subtle and the tears towards the end are even a bit interfering with the rest since this leads to a lack of coherence in the main mood. Jeong Gi-hoon's debut work is therefore a movie that is definitely recommendable, but some of the mentioned flaws almost push me into the direction of a lower rating. The ending that rounds off everything nicely, though, is appeasing enough that I let myself be talked into looking over these facts.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
Buy this movie:

Yesasia Logo