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OASIS

(South Korea 2002) 

Original Title: Oasiseu

Directed by Lee Chang Dong Produced by Myun Kaynam

Starring: Sol Kyung Gu, Moon So Ri, Ahn Nae Sang, Ryoo Seung Wan, Choo Kwi Jung, Park Myung Shin

Reviewing: Third Window Films UK DVD Release

Genres: Drama / Romance

Rating - 5 / 5

DVD Synopsis: Combining fantasy with stark realism, Lee Chang-dong's (Peppermint Candy, Secret Sunshine) magnificent film is both beautiful and tragic as it explores the thorny issue of how people with disabilities are marginalised. Stars Sol Kyung-gu and Moon So-ri give their finest performances as the mentally ill ex-con Jong-do (Sol) who falls for a young woman suffering from cerebral palsy (Moon), would-be lovers who are sidelined by society.

Views: Acclaimed novelist turned-director, Lee Chang-Dong delivers a powerful tale of humanity and love, that often comes across in the most heartbreaking of ways but gives you everything a movie should. Sol Kyung-Gu plays Jong-Du, a troubled young man who has just been released from prison after spending a number of years locked up for manslaughter. As an adult with autism, Jong-Du is seen by many as a social misfit, always fidgeting and laughing inappropriately which makes those around him feel uneasy. Not long after he is released, Jong-Du finds his way back to his family who helps him get back on his feet and find him a job as a food delivery man. One day, he decides to pay a visit to the family of the victim, bringing them a fruit basket as a peace offering but as expected, they send him away – caught up in the midst of moving house. Upon entering their home, Jong-Du briefly meets Gong-Ju, the younger sister of the family who is severely disabled by cerebral palsy. To his surprise, Jong-Du finds that she is being left to fend for herself with her family moving out of town to get on with their own lives (cheating the system for better housing by pretending Gong-Ju is still living with them). Jong-Du soon takes a bit of a liking to Gong-Ju, believing they have a connection of sorts even in their short time meeting. He makes a point of going back to her (a number of times), eventually letting himself in where he attempts to rape the unsuspecting woman – causing her to blackout as she fends him off. Panicked and embarrassed, Jong-Du brings her round then runs off in anger!

As time passes, the ex-con soon gets a call from Gong-Ju who asks him to come over – to which he quickly obliges. From there, the pair form a special bond that sees them share a lot of time together discussing their favourite things as he washes her clothes and hair, late-night phone calls to help her sleep better, and secret trips out for lunches and car trips. Together, they go on a journey to defy the odds as they go up against bigotry – both from family members and strangers – ignorance towards their disabilities and their own challenges of living with them, as well as the struggle of others accepting their love. As things come to a climax, Jong-Du finds himself back in cuffs after Gong-Ju's family members catch them after sex. Although this was consented by her, the family members have him arrested for rape – resulting in a frustrating and difficult situation at the precinct that proves to be an incredibly hard watch. Knowing that his arrest is wrong, both parties make a point of letting everyone know with Gong-Ju throwing a fit and Jong-Du making a run for it. It all boils down to a mad declaration of love between two misunderstood and abused souls, that lets us see that no matter who we are or what people think we are, we all need someone in our heart...

To be perfectly honest, I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like Oasis. It sat in my collection for a few years before I even got round to watching it for this review, but I can only say I'm sorry I didn't watch it sooner. Director Lee Chang Dong creates a picture that is so realistic it pulls its audience in by the hair and refuses to let go. While there's a great supporting cast in the shape of Ahn Nae Sang, Park Myung Shin, Kim Jin Gu, and Ryoo Seung Wan – the award winning director of amazing titles such as Arahan, Crying Fist, City Of Violence, The Battleship Island, and more – the show really belongs to it's main stars Sol Kyung Gu and Moon So Ri, both of whom give such outstanding performances. And as I said to my husband at the time watching, I don't think I've ever seen or been so encapsulated in a performance quite like what Moon So Ri delivers in this movie! It really was something else, and hugely impressive for only her second ever role. Like many others, I was totally convinced that this was an actress with Cerebral Palsy – woke from this amazement when Gong-Ju stepped out off her disability and became free of her restrictions every time she dreamed of a moment of happiness or being with Jong-Du (which offered many emotional and beautiful moments). Her ability to contort every single muscle in her body and keep up those painful looking twists in her face, all while delivering an emotional and convincing performance, was nothing short of incredible and absolutely worthwhile of the many awards she received as Best Actress. In fact, both Sol Kyung Gu and Lee Chang Dong were winners of many awards themselves, picking up those for Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Film respectively.

Of course, both actors are no strangers to giving great performances with Sol Kyung Gu starring in the fantastic Public Enemy the very same year, as well as roles in its sequels Another Public Enemy, and Public Enemy 3, The Legend Of Gingko, Memoir Of A Murderer, and Lee Chang Dong's very own Peppermint Candy (before this) with co-star Moon So Ri, in her début role. With these two great films under her belt and a host of awards behind her, Moon has went on to be one of South Korea's most respected actresses starring in film and television shows such as The President's Barber, The Housemaid, Park Chan Wook's incredible film The Handmaiden, Legend Of The Blue Sea, and much more. And as for director Lee Chang Dong, well, he may stretch his time between projects but he makes damn sure that each one is well worth watching. Making his début with Green Fish, Lee has directed no less than 6 features over the past 20+ years with the incredible mystery thriller, Burning, being his latest. While a late bloomer to the world of film, there's no denying the man has certainly made his mark in what he has already offered. I didn't know what to expect from Oasis, and I don't think it's the kind of film I'd be watching too often – but what it offers is something special and highly memorable. It's a film that will forever stick in my mind as a beautiful and important piece on how society views its people that they deem helpless and how love is deserved of us all, no matter who we are!

Overall: An outstanding film with incredible performances, Oasis is one that most definitely should be seen and understood by many!

DVD Extras: The Making of Oasis, Trailers