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My Brother - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Uri hyeong

South Korea 2004


Ahn Kwon-tae

Won Bin
Shin Ha-kyun
Kim Hae-suk
Lee Bo-young
Kim Tae-wook
Kim Dong-seok

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My Brother

Story: Jong-hyeon (Won Bin) may be a year younger than his brother Seong-hyeon (Shin Ha-gyun), but the two attend the same class. While Jong-hyeon is good-looking and a respected thug at school his older brother is disfigured by a harelip and writes poems and stories in his free time. Their mother (Kim Hae-suk) favored her oldest son her whole life and gave up on a lot in life for his operations. Jong-hyeon is frustrated because of that and constantly gets himself in trouble. However, when his brother falls in love with a girl and Jong-hyeon also casts an eye at that girl it is the first time that problems between the two really come to the surface. Jong-hyeon even steals a poem from his brother in order to impress the girl. But the ties of blood are strong enough to make them pass this trial as well. One day Seong-hyeon goes to university and Jong-hyeon drops out of school to earn some money with some small-time crooks to help his mother who made some ill-advised investments. Soon, serious problems arise in the family.

Review: It's fascinating to see a Korean heartwrenching drama, that has been continuously getting good reviews of critics and viewers alike, with a delay of eight years. Because if you are honest most of them can't pass the test of time. "My Brother" centers around the relationship of two brothers which is burdened with various difficulties. One of them becomes a thug because he doesn't get the attention of his mother, the other one turns to literature and is constantly learning because of his harelip. Normally, this would mean being bullied at school but Jong-hyeon has been raised from the early days to take care of his little brother and so he fights quite some battles for him without being asked to.

The shy boy Seong-hyeon over and over again has to get some operation, for which payment his mother takes on work as a loan shark, and still those operations don't change anything about his disfigurement which was the reason his father wanted to give him away. The boy surely doesn't have an easy life but in exchange he gets all the love from his mother she has. Therefore, it's only understandable that Jong-hyeon is craving the love of his mother in his very own way and as a result became the tough guy who earned himself the title of number 1 at his school through fighting. The violence he sometimes displays may be repellent but in the end you simply need to have sympathy for him as his actions naturally result from the difficult family situation.

The first real crisis occurs when Jong-hyeon steals a poem of his brother and impresses a girl with it who actually Seong-hyeon has his eyes set on. Eventually their problems need to be verbalized and so the two have a talk. But since the story is told by the younger brother as a flashback we are aware that there is some kind of suprise waiting for us. And this is where the big flaw of "My Brother" becomes apparent. The oftentimes too emotional soundtrack doesn't leave any doubt that we have a heartwrenching drama presented to us here. Thus, the dramatic ending is so predictable that it can't be moving really. But not just this, it also feels so forced, that you just need to get angry about it. This is the kind of drama that apparently comes to our full surprise but on a closer look has been inevitable.

It may be true that "My Brother" may have been one of the first movies to have made use of this "sleight of hand" (well, not really...) and you wouldn't be that annoyed by it if you saw it eight years ago, but actually it doesn't change the facts anyway. The ending feels very forced and aims at some tears. Furthermore, a good movie should remain a good movie even if a few years have passed, no matter how many times it may have been copied. "My Brother" is simply a genre treat and the two popular actors can't change that either. To see Won Bin ("The Man From Nowhere") and Shin Ha-kyun ("Save the Green Planet") in their early years has something refreshing about it, even though strangely enough Shin in his very introverted role often outshines Won Bin.

In the end there is the realization that every family has problems and that we need to come to terms with them. Certain things can't be made undone and the fact that Jong-hyeon's family just isn't a perfect one doesn't mean that you can't get happy. The way Jong-hyeon's outbursts of violence strike back at him resp. his family like a boomerang is too hackneyed in order to really surprise. Therefore, a little bit too much emotionalism together with an ending that is artificially constructed clearly justify a point off in the rating. "My Brother" is thus a drama about a relationship between two brothers that most likely will appeal to fans of the genre.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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