It’s not hard to see why “The Way Home” has become such a hit in its native South Korea. The story is a plaintive moral tale, adding the requisite doses of humour and sentimentality where it’s required. The story involves the rural grandmother (Kim Eul-boon) of a bratty little boy (Yoo Seung-ho) named Sang-Woo. He’s been shipped off to the country from Seoul while his mother looks for work. He does everything he can to get a good whipping, stealing his grandmother’s only prized possession to buy batteries for his GameBoy and throwing a tantrum when his chicken isn’t prepared like “Kentucky Chicken”. His grandmother responds with empathy and kindness, giving the little boy’s bitterness no avenues to develop.
Director Lee Jeong-hyang chose first-time actors from rural backgrounds for this film, a choice that gives it a touch of verisimilitude. The neo-realist camera style and minimal dialogue also compliment the film’s no-frills story. It’s particularly amazing to watch Kim, who walks with such a hunch that she’s almost kissing the ground. Her mere appearance exemplifies the film’s undertones of self-sacrifice. It’s obviously struck a responsive chord with many South Koreans, and should work its magic in other parts of the world.