Grand Father [BIFAN 2016] – Review

Grand Father is a new revenge film full of mystery and dark family secrets....Read More

20th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival World Premiere

Grand Father (그랜드 파더)

  • Directed by: Lee Seo (이서)
  • Starring: Park Geun-hyeong (박근형), Go Bo-gyeol (고보결), Oh Seung-yoon (오승윤)
  • Synopsis: A Vietnam War veteran, Ki Gwang is an old bus driver. One day, he faced that his son had committed suicide and met his granddaughter at the funeral. However, he finds that some friends of his son have been using his granddaughter for their personal need. This was the beginning of his vengeance for the world…

Review

Korean film is often known for its mastering of the revenge thriller. From Park Chan-wook’s vengeance trilogy, to The Man From Nowhere (아저씨, 2010) and I Saw the Devil (2010). You’d be hard pressed to think of another country who does them quite like this. And after last year’s serial killer procedural Tattoo (2015), director Lee Seo is back at BIFAN 2016 with Grand Father to add yet another dark tale of bloody revenge to the catalog.

When thinking about a grandfather, many might conjure up the image of a smiling older and grey-haired man embracing his grand baby. So, the opening scene of Grand Father is similarly peaceful and one you might expect. It is a serene afternoon in a park where we see old men contemplatively dueling in board games and being greeted by local politicians running for office. Pleasantries and smiles are exchanged only to be interrupted by the sudden awakening of a passed out drunken old man in the bushes. He then belligerently begins to shout military commands at the politicians and is in need of restraining when things get physical. This is our introduction of Ki Wang (Park Geun-hyeong), our not so ordinary grandfather whom the film is titled after.

We discover that Ki Wang is a poor Vietnam veteran scarred by his experiences in the war in more ways than one. Living alone, he spends his days drinking soju and driving day laborers to work in his broken down old bus that is very reflective of himself. When Ki Wang is notified of his son’s death which was declared a suicide by the police investigation, Ki Wang is reunited with his estranged 17 year old grand daughter Bo-ram (Go Bo-gyeol) at the funeral service. Clearly, there is some bad blood between them as she gives him the cold shoulder immediately after meeting face to face.

At first, it is somewhat frustrating and confusing to see Bo-ram treat her poor grandfather in such a cold manner. She seems to have fallen in with the wrong crowd at school and spends her evenings smoking and hanging around with the spoiled and arrogant nephew of one of her father’s friends (Oh Seung-yoon). But once we learn a little about the family history, we can’t blame her completely for her behavior. Ki wang may be quite deserving of the lack of affection and respect she shows him. Nonetheless, Ki Wang makes an effort to establish some kind of connection with his grand daughter while his growing suspicions surrounding his son’s death embark him on a dark journey to uncover the truth, which is beyond anything he could have imagined.

Ki Wang is played by award-winning and veteran actor Park Geun-hyeong who has appeared in nearly 100 films and countless drama series. His performance in Grand Father is a force to be reckoned with and his emotional commitment to the character more than carries the weight of the film even in its weakest parts. The strongest and most interesting scenes are of his attempt to connect with his daughter as a back and forth of outright rejections or slight acknowledgements of a possible relationship ensue.

Go Bo-gyeol is a very talented and beautiful up-and-coming actress who shows an excellent range as she portrays the damaged and rebellious teen Bo-ram. Her performance really shines when she begins to struggle with her feelings towards her grandfather and finds a way to connect some part of herself to him, almost against her will as her family blood bond shows hints of triumph over even her most resentful feelings towards him.

When Grand Father kicks into full revenge thriller mode, it disappointingly starts to resemble similar genre tropes and sequences. The good news is that they were almost on par with some of the best Korean revenge thrillers like I Saw The Devil (2010) and Oldboy (2003). It was actually pretty awesome to see a grandpa go berserk in his quest for revenge and justice, but you may be left wanting something a bit more original in the end.

Nonetheless, the mystery in Grand Father is engaging and it will keep you guessing almost all the way through. Director Lee Seo has definitely honed his skills as a director as Grand Father feels much more focused and polished than his previous film, Tattoo (2015). Like Tattoo, Grand Father makes no clear claims as to having a good and bad guy per say. Each character has his or her own motives, and show differing degrees of good and evil. This may be an area to discuss with your friends after viewing as I’m sure there will be strong opinions either way as to how these characters can or should be judged. Give this film a go and watch it for the strong performances and genre elements!


Trailer


 

 

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