The body of a dead girl floats quietly down the Han River, drifting mysteriously through the opening scene of Chang-dong Lee’s unforgettable new film. The second chapter of his ongoing exploration of forgiveness, Poetry follows Lee’s acclaimed Secret Sunshine.

Veteran actor Jeong-hee Yoon shines in the role of Mija, a beautiful woman in her sixties who moves gracefully through life, contemplating a trivial daily routine that is ill-suited to her refined persona. Mija takes care of her ungrateful grandson, Wook (Da-wit Lee), and makes a living by cleaning house for an elderly man who, though paralyzed by a stroke, still responds to her charm.

On a whim, Mija enrolls in a poetry class and begins a personal quest to find the perfect words to describe her feelings. However, she’s plagued by the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and struggles with new vocabulary and the challenges of the creative process. When her world is turned upside down by her grandson’s implication in a monstrous crime, it is Mija’s unique and touching poetry that allows her to defy the weight of shame and distance herself from a painful proximity to violence. In this courageous and intelligent melodrama, poetry becomes the inspirational subtext in a multi-layered tale.

Giovanna Fulvi,
Toronto International Film Festival