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Marathon or Mal-ah-ton
JANUARY 26, 2005 23:05 by Seung-Jae Lee ( sjda@donga.com)
 
The movie 밠al-ah-ton is about an autistic man뭩 triumph as a human. The movie softly wakens a forgotten, subtle, and yet important sense. It is the sense of touch. The movie tickles its audience. Grass that touches past your fingertips, heartbeats that you can feel through your palm, winds that blow past your eyes, and raindrops that lightly pound your forehead. The source of influence and sensation of the film is that it makes you once again feel the greatness and beauty of those small things. Like Cho-won, the autistic runner in the movie, says, the senses we get by touching those things make our hearts 밷eat. The story is amusing, amusing on account of being amusing, sad on account of being humorous, and deeply touching on account of being sad.

Cho-won is an autistic (Jo Seung-woo, photo) whose obsessions include zebra and Choco Pie. He turned 21 but is five years old intellectually. Kyoung-sook, his mother (Kim Mi-sook), wants to train her son, who has the potential to be a runner, for 뱒ub three (finishing a full marathon within three hours). One day, Jeong-wook (Lee Ki-young), who was a famous marathoner in his day, comes to Cho-won뭩 special school to perform community service as a result of a drunk driving charge. Kyoung-sook forces Jeong-wook into coaching her son. Jeong-wook is a world-weary person but in time gets to open his heart to Cho-won.

In fact, moviegoers can predict how the story will go and come to end without actually going to the movies. The story and setting are that much pass. But 밠al-ah-ton produces strong and resonant energy by combining too commonly used elements piecemeal. The credit has to go to Jo Seung-woo. Jo Seung-woo succeeds in giving quite real and special feelings by fidgeting and pronouncing every syllable of his words, which otherwise could have been very flat, when he utters, 밒 do not fall down. Cho-won will not fall down. Instead of trying to mimic an autistic person, Jo transformed himself into one.

Mom: 밅ho-won뭩 legs are worth what?

Cho-won: 밫hey are worth one million dollars.

Mom: 밃nd your body looks?

Cho-won: 밃wesome.

The movie is driven by 뱑epetitiveness. The conversations above between the mom and son are repeated several times. At first, the repetition is funny and then a tearjerker, and finally something dawns on the audience. The movie puts similar lines and actions into different and more profound situations to make viewers feel and think themselves, which is a highly sophisticated plot. The same formula applies to Cho-won뭩 two obsessions: Choco Pie and zebra. Those two are his favorites and, at the same time, get him into trouble. Ultimately, Cho-won has to overcome those things. In the process of breaking himself from the two, Cho-won grows to communicate with the world, and his mom and the coach can find their true lives.

밨ain pours. 밠y heart beats. These are so plain but creepily touch your hearts. With the repetition of some lines and words, the audience naturally lets their emotional guard down. The weird experience of crying for the very reason why that person laughed. Just as Cho-won takes time to write 4.2.1.9.5, the length of the full marathon course on his left arm, the film, too, neither scurries nor forces when getting down people뭩 emotional barriers. Those who have patiently run 4.2.1.9.5 kilometers as the movie shows come to run into a truly memorable expression on Cho-won뭩 (or Jo Seung-woo뭩 as a human) face: 밪mile!

Kim Mi-sook acted in a movie for the first time in 23 years. She gave up her elegance but brings together tenderness and strength. She created another unique image of a mother different from Kim Hae-sook뭩 ever-strong and tough image in the movie 밠y Brother. The title 밠al-ah-ton came directly from the word used in the 뱓hings to do part of Cho-won뭩 drawing diary. The film is director Jeong Yoon-cheol뭩 first long piece. The movie will be released on January 27. All age groups are allowed to watch the movie.

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