Korea teaches Hollywood how to create a great role for an older woman

One of the most affecting films in competition at Cannes, this layered, lyrical drama from Korean director Lee Chongdong focuses on a Mija (Yun Junghee), a woman in her 60s whose life of quiet dignity meets a moral crossroads as a variety of unrelated events intersect. Her indolent teenage grandson has been involved in the gang rape of a girl who has committed suicide. The father of one of the perpetrators is organizing the parents to cover up the boys’ crime with a pool of hush money. Meanwhile, Mija cleans house for an elderly man who lusts after her despite his half-paralyzed condition. And she herself is suffering from the early symptoms of Alzheimers. Amid all of this, she enrolls in a poetry class, which subtly re-orients her view of the world and allows her to find her moral centre. Poetry won the award for best screenplay in Cannes, but it could just as easily have won for best actress.

Poetry premieres at TIFF on September 10, with additional screenings on September 11 and 17.