Hot Docs 2023: Our Review of ‘A Mother, Youngsoon’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Hot Docs 2023, Movies by - April 27, 2023
Hot Docs 2023: Our Review of ‘A Mother, Youngsoon’

Lee Chang-jun’s second film, the documentary A Mother, Youngsoon, is about two subjects. The younger of the two, Sosa, goes to dinner with two family friends. That dinner’s main conversation topi,  though, is Sosa’s mother, the titular Youngsoon, whom the hosts describe as ‘awesome’. Awesome is apt in describing the woman who swam across a river so that she and her son can leave North Korea. Despite this heroic act, the two find themselves diverging.

Lee, then, does more exploration towards Youngsoon and Sosa through the typical methods – by following them around and through archive videos and photos. The photos show them as a family of four. This includes an abusive husband and another son who is clearly her favourite. The rest of the film follows these two more as they Rashomon each other. They also do things like embark on real estate misadventure, making viewers wonder if they’ll reconcile.

Youngsoon and Sosa don’t stay the same as A Mother, Youngsoon, follows them for at least three years. Lee, to his credit, makes those years fly by within his 78 minute running time. It’s early days in the festival but my common complaints so far are either a documentary’s overt polish or lack thereof. This documentary falls on the latter category, taking the obligatory points off of it. There are also some pacing issues here.

Nonetheless, what rescues A Mother, Youngsoon from being bad is its way of making his viewers invest on his subject’s relationships. Lee also touches on the political side of an obviously political documentary. The interview scenes highlight the plight that defectors face in South Korea, which most of the world consider as the better Korea. They don’t give treatment even to their Northern siblings who flee South. The documentary becomes a rallying cry for equality.

  • Release Date: 4/28/2023
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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