Bravo, My Life

Director: Park Heung-sik
Year: 2005
Production Company: BlueStorm Co. Ltd.
Running Time: 93 minutes

This is the third film I have seen recently that references the assassination of President Park in 1979, but while “The President’s Bang” (2005) and “The President’s Barber” (2004) were both political satires “Bravo, My Life” uses the incident only to establish time and an immediate sense of nostalgia. It is kept in the background of a simple story about a young boy in Junior High School going through typical adolescent growing pains of rebellion and hormones. Gwang-ho (Lee Jae-eung) lives with his mother (Moon So-ri) and small sister in Seoul and though a father is referenced he is supposedly always away at work in Saudi Arabia and one is suspicious that this is just the mother’s cover story to explain his absence. Living as a tenant with them is a young attractive woman Eun-sook (Yoon Jin-seo) who is studying to be a nurse.

The film follows the life of this very typical boy – his time at school – the beatings from teachers - the people in his neighborhood – sneaking a read of Playboy magazine – his growing crush on Eun-sook – the fear of not answering chain letters - his first wet dream and most importantly his relationship with his mother. She clearly isn’t an educated person and her love for her children drives her life – her question to Gwang-ho is always “have you eaten yet?” and like all kids that age the boy doesn’t really appreciate her and feels the need to rebel in small ways. This sort of nostalgic a boy’s life type of film/TV series has been done many times ("The Wonder Years" springs immediately to mind while watching this) and in truth there isn’t much new here but it plays out in such a relaxed realistic manner that it is a pleasure to simply watch the small things that make up your life when you are that age. Near the end it picks up emotionally and hits you a lot harder than you expected.
The performances by mother and son are excellent. It's easy and almost expected that a young boy in a coming of age film will play it with a certain amount of cute charm, but to the credit of the film Gwang-ho is not particularly cute or charming but often annoying in the ways kids really are at that age. Moon So-ri ("Oasis" and "A Good Lawyer's Wife") as usual can do no wrong - there is absolutely nothing flashy about her acting here, but she is completely believable as a good and loving mother. Previous films from this director were the wonderfully romantic “I Wish I Had a Wife” and the intriguing but ultimately disappointing “My Mother, the Mermaid”.

My rating for this film: 7.0

Reviewed: 01/06

Previous films from Director:

My Mother, the Mermaid (2004)
I Wish I Had a Wife (2001)