This film by celebrated novelist-turned-director Lee Chang-dong owes much of its critical and commercial success to the sensitive acting performances he elicits from his two leads, particularly Moon So-ri as cerebral palsy victim Gong-ju. Moon doesn't simply mimic the physical contortions caused by the disease (though the painful physicality of her role is astounding to watch), she also brilliantly conveys the frustration of trying to communicate through a body that doesn't work. Sidestepping the pitfalls of sentimentality and overly showy acting that mar many films centered on characters with mental disabilities, Lee simply allows his two leads to carry the film with their carefully modulated and utterly believable performances. Using handicapped characters to point out the cruelty of the supposedly normal people around them is hardly a new conceit, and while the theme is present, Lee wisely chooses to focus on the relationship that develops between his two main characters.
Korean director Lee Chang-dong's drama begins on the day that Jong-du (Sol Kyung-gu), a mentally handicapped young man, is released from prison. He is immediately arrested again for being unable to pay a restaurant bill, and his brother bails him out and sets him up with a menial job and a place to live. The crime that originally landed Jong-du in prison was a hit-and-run accident that resulted in the death of an old man. One day he goes to visit the victim's family, and meets Gong-ju (Moon So-ri), the man's daughter, who has cerebral palsy. After a disastrous first meeting, the two begin an unlikely love affair that exposes the callousness and uncomfortable secrets of both of their families.