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Sisters on the Road - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Ji-geum, I-dae-ro-ga Jongh-a-yo

South Korea 2008

Genre:
Drama

Director:
Boo Ji-young

Cast:
Shin Min-ah
Kong Hyo-jin
Kim Sang-hyeon
Choo Kwi-jeong
Moon Jae-won
Bae Eun-jin


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Sisters on the Road

Sisters on the Road - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Myeong-eun (Shin Min-ah) hasn't paid her family a visit in a very long time and now lives in Seoul where she started working at a company after having graduated. Her half-sister Myeong-joo (Kong Hyo-jin) on the other hand works at a fish market and is a single mother. Myeong-eun doesn't know her father and is angry at her sister, because she seems to make the same mistakes as their mother. However, when their mother dies Myeong-eun is forced to come back home for once. She asks her aunt (Kim Sang-hyeon), who is part of the family and living with them since their childhood days, if she could look after Myeong-joo's daughter for a few days. She wants to go looking for her father with the help of her sister, after the funeral of their mother has been taken care of. Her sister is everything but excited about it, but she accompanies her. During their trip there are constant quarrels between the two siblings, which more than everything else are the result of Myeong-eun's problems with the happy-go-lucky nature of her sister. Moreover, she eventually finds out that Myeong-joo hasn't told her everything she knows about the father of her half-sister.

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Review: It's difficult to be too strict with indie dramas. After all, they try to create profound stories around individuals that carry emotional scars with them or have to cope with a traumatic experience and they do so within a small framework, meaning with only a small budget at hand. But if you are honest those movies can often also put the audience's patience to the test. Fortunately, a slow pacing isn't the problem of "Sisters on the Road", because this movie is merely 90 minutes long and thus more or less putting things together pretty tightly while the story is constantly moving forward. Of course, you still shouldn't expect an especially high pacing, in the end this is still a character-driven drama, but the movie is a lot more pleasant in this respect than many similar works that try to generate the illusion of profoundness by featuring minimalistic directing.

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The English title makes you expect a road movie, but technically speaking this isn't such a flick. Yet, the trip the two sisters share in fact stands in the focus of events and the spatial trip of the two also depicts a trip into their inner selves, forcing them to deal with family issues. Myeong-eun has problems with her family and would like nothing more than to keep as much distance from them as possible. When it comes to her sister she even has merely feelings of contempt towards her. She regards her as stupid, alcohol-addicted and irresponsible. Actually, Myeong-joo is just a bit immature. Yet, we very soon have taken her into our hearts. Instead it's her sister Myeon-eun who is arrogant, superficial and materialistic. The roles are clear, it seems, but naturally not everything is as easily categorized as it may seem at first.

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Shin Min-ah ("The Naked Kitchen", "Sad Movie") plays the very cold, but also vulnerable Myeong-eun, who slowly starts to reveal the reasons for her animosity towards her sister. The search for her father proves that she always has been haunted by the feeling of being left alone and not being part of the family, even though her mother as well as her sister and her aunt have provided her with a very warm home. It's not just the fact that she can't appreciate this which makes her dislikeable in the beginning, but also her unfounded nagging about her sister. Myeong-joo is portrayed by Kong Hyo-jin ("Love Fiction", "Crush and Blush") and the lively nature of the woman soon makes her extremely likeable. Furthermore, both women get more facets to their characters as things progress in the movie.

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The story also unfolds via some flashbacks, during which the past is reprocessed and we slowly get closer to the family's secret. At the end we get an unexpected twist that is truely quite wacky and stands as a great risk for the movie's credibility. It can't be taken for granted that the revelation doesn't come across as completely ridiculous, but thanks to the good directing by Boo Ji-young everything remains in a very personal and thus credible framework. It also deserves to be positively noted that the drama doesn't attempt to go for some cheap tears either. In the movie Myeong-joo foretells that her sister shouldn't expect to be lying in her father's arms with tears in her eyes at the end, and without giving away too much you can argue that "Sisters on the Road" didn't promise too much. That is even the more surprising when taking into account that after her debut work Boo Ji-young should deliver "Cart", a film that turned out to be a bit too cliché-loaden and emotional.

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There may be a few shaky-camera shots every now and then, but in its core "Sisters on the Road" oozes out the kind of warmth that normally can't be found in indie dramas. At the same time unneeded tears are avoided, too. Everything looks very believable and thus manages to be touchng in an unobtrusive way. Certainly that's not just the effort of the well-achieved directing, but also thanks to the two actresses. The trip of the two sisters isn't just an undertaking where they have to deal with each other, but also a trip into their feelings for one another and into the past where skeletons are taken out of the closet. "Sisters on the Road" surprises with its relatively short running time and a good pacing and also proves that indie dramas don't necessarily need to be completely cold and almost solely targeting an art-house audience.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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