A simple, moving film about the effect a young man, with the mind of a six year old, has on a number of people around him. Based on the web-comic of the same name by Kang Pool (Kang Do-Young) and Directed by Kim Jeong-Kwon, this heart-warming, 2008 South Korean comedy-drama is sure to bring some tears to your eyes as well as a smile to your face. Seung-Ryong is a very simple man who focuses on the two most important things in his life: his little sister and his first love. However when those close to him begin to face hardships, it seems that Seung-Ryong may be the only one to set things right.
Title: Miracle of a Giving Fool
Other Names: Ba:Bo (바보)
Director: Kim Jeong-Kwon
Cast: Cha Tae-Hyun, Ha Ji-Won, Park Ha-Seon, Park Hee-Soon, Park Grina, Lee Ki-Young, Song Jae-Ho, Jeong Kyeong-Soon, Jeong Jae-Jin, Jo Deok-Hyeon, Im Hyeong-Gook, Lee Sang-Hoon-I, Seo Dae-Han, Choi Seol-Ri, Jo Ah-Ra-I, Jeon Mi-Seon
Country: South Korea
Running Time: 98 minutes
It’s been a while since I have reviewed a Korean movie, even though I’ve seen quite a few recently. Ba:Bo, which can be loosely translated as Stupid/Fool, is about a young man who due to an incident is left with the mind of a six year old. I have seen a few movies with a similar premise (for example the Korean movie “Marathon” and its Japanese drama retelling by the same name, as well as the Japanese movie “Laundry” – all of which I hope to review at some point), though the only reason I can think of that initially led me to this title is Cha Tae-Hyun. I remember enjoying his acting in “My Sassy Girl” and “Two Guys”, and after reading a bit about Ba:Bo, I thought I’d give it a go. In my opinion, it is a better movie than it sounds.
As in any other town there exists a village fool. The resident fool in this case is the Hero of the movie Seung-Ryong (Cha Tae-Hyun). Seung-Ryong is a very peculiar looking character with scruffy, dirty attire and there are those that poke fun at him because of the way his weird ways. Apart from making egg sandwiches, there isn’t much Seung-Ryong is capable of, for due to an incident when he was young, he is left with the mind of a six year old. To make matters harder for Seung-Ryong not only did his parents died when he was at a young age, he has a younger sister, Ji-In, to look out for. Though no matter how bad his situation ends up, he is always smiling.
Seung-Ryong is a very simple man who focuses on the two most important things in his life: his little sister and his first love. However when those close to him begin to face hardships, it seems that Seung-Ryong may be the only one to set things right.
There are a few important characters to take note of aside from Seung-Ryong, who, we find out very early in the movie, is somewhat mentally challenged.
Ji-Ho is struggling to perform as a pianist and returns to her hometown for a break. She is Seung-Ryong’s love interest, yet upon meeting him she is unable to remember anything about him.
Ji-In is Seung-Ryong’s younger sister, who is currently studying in high school. Despite the her brother’s efforts in looking after her, she is embarrassed to be associated with him, due to the way he acts, and shows no respect towards him or the things he does.
Sang-Soo considers Seung-Ryong his best friend. Being associated with the wrong kind of people, Sang-Soo has to be careful not to let harm come his way.
The movie starts of with one-day Seung-Ryong’s first love Ji-Ho returning, but not recalling our weird protagonist, who has been waiting for years for this very moment to come. Ji-Ho is a promising pianist, yet one day she is unable to perform due to stage fright. This has had a big impact on her life, and her response is to return home from London with the hopes of recovering.
From there the story develops, building on the characters as well as plot, and is quite light-heated and laid-back (though never tedious at any point). What I found refreshing was that there are a lot of moments where the film leads you into expecting a particular thing to happen, but either it doesn’t happen or something completely different happens. It may sound like a let down, but in my opinion it is one of the reasons I found this movie so enjoyable as it has an element of realism to it (the idea being that things don’t always turn out as expected/anticipated).
We are shown how others treat Seung-Ryong, ranging from fun poking, as normal as everybody else, to showing disrespect. Yet despite this he is always smiling and doing his very best to take care of Ji-In. By putting his sandwich making skills to use, Seung-Ryong is able to earn money by selling them outside his younger sister Ji-In’s school, making him very independent.
While his is more or less self reliant, he is still at a disadvantage because of his disability, However it seems that because of this he is more capable of doing certain things than others, something that will change the lives of those close to him.
Ba:Bo, although it doesn’t heavily rely on the comedic aspect, is a feel-good/heart-warming comedy with a twist of what I can only describe as intense drama. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this movie as the main character performed his role almost flawlessly, and would recommend it to anyone. From the way he speaks to others as well as his through actions, it is clear that he is independent and capable of looking after himself and his younger sister. Also even though there may be elements of romance (sometimes this is classified as a romance movie), there is little to do with a romantic relationship, however there is a stress on family relations.
What I enjoyed about this movie is that I didn’t find it very predictable. Though there were times where you could figure out where the movie was headed, there were equally a number of instances in Ba:Bo where I thought I knew what was going to happen but ended up being wrong. This, for me, made the movie seem less mechanical/pre-coordinated and more realistic.
The actors that were cast for the characters were well chosen in my opinion. Cha Tae-Hyun (who plays Seung-Ryong) and Park Ha-Seon (who plays Seung-Ryong’s younger sister) played their roles very well, though it is obvious Cha Tae-Hyun made the movie as successful as it is. Park Ha Seon’s character is one I found that could be understood in more than one way, in terms of her relationship with her brother. I don’t want to talk about it too much as I feel it is a topic that needs to be analyzed in-depth. Basically I noticed a few possibilities regarding her attitude towards Seung-Ryong in light of the situation that they are in: either she is embarrassed too be associated with him because of his mental state, or that she tries to distance herself from him in order to make him take more care of himself (the latter of which I think is more interesting and also more likely as it is difficult to be so shallow as to not care for your sibling). I wasn’t too fond of Ha Ji-Won’s acting in this particular movie, which for a lead character didn’t perform very well. (By the way I noticed that she looked familiar, turns out she had a cameo in His Last Gift as the mother of the girl, and I also saw her in Miracle on First Street). The same goes for Park He-Soon who played Sang-So. His acting wasn’t too great either, though I did watch him in My Friend and His Wife, which his acting was much better (probably because he was a lead character).
Cha Tae-Hyun did great in portraying his character, which is very different from any of the roles that he previously did (such as My Sassy Girl, Highway Star, Happy Ero Christmas, etc). He seems to have put on quite a bit of weight for this role, and apparently has played very close to his character as was depicted in the web-comic by Kang Pool (Kang Do-Young). His is a very lovable character (one would call him “too nice of a person”), who does not lie, is very diligent, and no matter how bad of a position he is in he will do everything he can to fulfill his promises. He really looks after his sister, and as a whole, he is very good-natured with hardly any bad habits projected (aside from being lazy in some aspects and a habitually loosing his shoes).
I thought Jo Deok-Hyeon’s role (the guy who goes to buy some toast at about 35 seconds into the trailer), though it was very short, was pretty funny. He played this weird funny guy who, whenever he tried to get a sandwich from Seung-Ryong, would always end up having to make it himself due to one circumstance or another.
Like any other movie, there is room for improvement. There were a few problems I had with Ba:Bo, namely the lack of character development with some of the characters, and the lack of quality endings with regards to a couple of characters especially when taking the quality of the movie as a whole. Although this is some what understandable once having watched the movie and realizing whom the important characters are, it would have been nice to have a bit more focus on other characters as the current ending is somewhat unsatisfying.
There is a reoccurring motif involving shoes that I am not completely sure about. I would like to hear you opinions about this if you have already watched the movie. My understanding of the concept of the shoes is almost like a personification of (personification is not the right word, maybe closer to the nuance of “akin to”) Seung-Ryong. No matter what state he ends up in, no matter how many hard times he goes through, he is always there the next day just so that he can fulfill his purpose, just like a pair of shoes. That doesn’t sound quite right, and I’m pretty sure I’m wrong, but it seems that way to me. Not so sure if there is anyone who has mentioned the significance of old shoes (hmm, unless the director is fascinated with them).
I wonder how this compares to the original web-comic? If anyone has read it and/or watched the movie, please share your views as it would be interesting to know about similarities and differences.
I give this movie an 8/10
You can buy BaBo – Miracle of a Giving Fool from YesAsia.