New York Asian Film Festival ’18: Our Review Of ‘I Can Speak’

New York Asian Film Festival ’18: Our Review Of ‘I Can Speak’

Park Min-jae (Je-hoon Lee) may be the new guy at the civil service office but he’s already the best employee they have. He’s young and optimistic so when the city’s most troublesome citizen arrives, he takes her case. Na Ok-boon (Mun-hee Na) aka Goblin Granny, has filed over 8000 complaints and while they butt heads at first, the two become besties once Min-jae agrees to teach her English.

At a glance, I Can Speak looks like a solid film. Director, Hyun-seok Kim possesses a keen cinematic eye. Kim’s camera glides into scenes, captures the action from dynamic angles, and injects scenes with life. It helps that the lead actors carry their weight. Na is a natural charmer as Goblin Granny. She’s willful but not miserable – making her easy to root for. Lee has a tough job humanizing Min-jae’s anal-retentive character and delivers a restrained performance. The two actors play well off each other. Structurally, though, this film is a hot mess.

I Can Speak is all over the place structurally, tonally, and thematically. It starts like a comedy-drama about two forceful people’s clash of wills. Early on, Goblin Granny is the villain, antagonizing neighbours, politicians, and civil servants. Suddenly, she teams up with Min-jae, and her terrible traits melt away like butter in the hot sun. She gets along with people not because she’s changed but because the plot requires it. It feels forced and unearned and the film keeps making crazy leaps. Eventually, the jokes give way to intense drama featuring, and I kid you not, dementia, a suicide attempt, child sex workers, and speeches to Congress.

I Can Speak is melodrama with a capital M. The film goes to great lengths — I dare say cheats — to clutch at your heartstrings and wrench them at the end of the movie.

This post was written by
Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based freelance writer and pop culture curator. Victor currently contributes insights, criticisms, and reviews to several online publications where he has extended coverage to the Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Toronto After Dark, Toronto ComiCon, and Fan Expo Canada. Victor has a soft spot in his heart for Tim Burton movies and his two poorly behaved beagles (but not in that order).
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