My Love, Don’t Cross That RiverLondon Film Festival 2015
A beautiful white winter scene straight out of a fairytale starts off My Love, Don’t Cross That River. A few seconds are needed to take in all this beauty and it is only then that the small figure of an elderly lady becomes noticeable in the corner of the screen. A few more seconds pass until the realisation hits even harder that she is weeping in front of a grave.
That first, brilliantly composed shot sets the scene for the whole film – stunning shots and heartbreak go hand-in-hand in this simple South Korean documentary about love and mortality. Director Jin Mo-young followed elderly married couple Jo Byeong-man and Kang Kye-yeol for 15 months, until the last moments of their 76-year marriage. 89-year-old Kang still takes care of her husband the way she did when they first met in their teens. Even though looking after him now proves to be a lot harder than before – a sickness interrupting his sleep, heavy breathing getting in the way of life – she manages to still be the same warm, kind, funny person that he fell in love with. Meanwhile, there is Jo – 98 and still holding onto life because this is where his beloved Kang is. Wearing matching clothes every day and falling asleep holding hands every night, their love is only shadowed by death hanging over them, making even smiley Kang weep uncontrollably.
My Love, Don’t Cross That River is an emotional rollercoaster that gently plays on the strings of the heart before violently pulling on them until there is nothing but heartbreak. Gentle piano music is the only external interference in this simple documentary that instead relies on excellently composed shots and the genuineness of its subjects. Full of beauty, but a heavy watch, the result is an emotionally draining experience.
Even after more than 70 years together Kang and Jo still play like kids, throwing water at each other in summer, leaves in autumn, and snow in winter. As Jo so poetically puts it, humans are like flowers blooming in spring, falling in autumn – and after that there isn’t much else. Indeed, it is the cold emptiness that stays behind after which will haunt viewers long after they have seen the film.
My Love, Don’t Cross That River does not have a UK release date yet.
Watch the trailer for My Love, Don’t Cross That River here: