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Secret Sunshine (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

4.1 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

A master of intensely emotional human dramas, director Lee Chang-dong (Poetry) is a leading light of contemporary Korean cinema, and his place on the international stage was cemented by this stirring and unpredictable work examining grief and deliverance. An effortless mix of light and uncompromising darkness, Secret Sunshine (Miryang) stars Cannes best actress winner Jeon Do-yeon (The Housemaid) as a widowed piano teacher who moves with her young son from Seoul to her late husband’s provincial hometown for a fresh start. Quietly expressive, supple filmmaking and sublime, subtle performances distinguish this remarkable portrayal of the search for grace amid tragedy.

Special Features

New digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Lee Chang-dong and cinematographer Cho Yong-kyu, with DTS-HD Master Audio

New interview with Lee

On the Set of “Secret Sunshine,” a video piece featuring interviews with actors Jeon Do-yeon and Song Kang-ho, as well as behind-the-scenes footage

U.S. theatrical trailer

New and improved English subtitle translation

PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Dennis Lim


Product Details

  • Actors: Do-yeon Jeon, Kang-ho Song
  • Directors: Lee Chang-Dong
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Anamorphic, Blu-ray, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: Korean
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: August 23, 2011
  • Run Time: 142 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005152CAK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,707 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Harris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on June 15, 2011
Format: Blu-ray
Criterion has scored another winner with the acquisition of the intense Korean drama "Secret Sunshine." Director Lee Chang-dong has assembled a multi-layered film propelled by a stunning lead performance by Cannes Best Actress Jeon Do-yeon. In an age where few films explore religion from a contemporary standpoint, this is a critical and thoughtful examination of faith, tragedy, grief, forgiveness and perseverance. What starts as a rather pleasant and joyful film morphs into a thriller before it changes tone once again to searing human drama. The director shows a deft hand transforming lightness into the heart of darkness and delivering the viewer to the other side. Complex, challenging, and emotionally devastating--I hope the Criterion release will raise awareness of this remarkably adult entertainment.

A young widow (Do-yeon) and her son relocate to her late husband's hometown Miryang (Secret Sunshine). Starting fresh, she starts to tutor piano and is assisted by a potential new suitor. The details of her new world are expertly showcased and there is a realistic flavor to the scenes of every day life in this small town. But just as she has settled into a daily routine, tragedy strikes. After an intense sequence of events, she is left devastated and bereft. I know many people will reveal more of the plot than I will, but I think it's best to let the narrative unravel without expectation. Seeking solace, she throws herself into spirituality and uses the church to fill the emptiness of her life. The need to forgive and the need to hate do battle within her soul and the last hour of the picture is a war of emotion. Is there a way to reconcile these divergent feelings and is the church a help or a hindrance?
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Format: DVD
This is truly extraordinary and wonderful film, profound and profoundly depressing, and a perfect antidote to the delusions and falsehood of Hollywood. It exemplifies what makes contemporary Korean cinema so compelling: a willingness to explore human suffering without the promise of redemption --- political, spiritual, or aesthetic. The last shot of the film says it all. And the lead actresses performance was amazing: she seemed so fully consumed by her role that she became a new person as her character changed.
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I enjoy psychological films. I like seeing characters undergo psychological changes. Those types of films entertain me, even change my views of the world sometimes.

Secret Sunshine is one such film. In it a woman experiences a set of major events that send her spiraling into a psychological downfall, then up through enlightenment, then, finally, she falls deeper and deeper until true enlightenment is possible.

I don't want to spoil anything for those of you who haven't seen this yet, so I'll keep it brief. The woman loses her husband and then moves to his hometown with her son, hoping to start over. Once there she is greeted by a local neighbor who tells her that the only way to be truly happy is to find God, join the church, and become a religious citizen. She is hesitant, explaining that she doesn't believe in such things.

A few more things happen (I'm refraining from saying for spoilers sake) and she decides to join the church, finding God and weeping in an emotional scene (the actress does a wonderful job here, as well as throughout the entire film) which leads to her apparent happiness.

But not everything is as it seems...and when the woman decides to apply one of God's teachings to her daily life, the results aren't what she had expected. She falls into darkness once again, this time at a frightening speed.

What happens after this can only be witnessed by watching the film, since I don't want to give away any more.

Secret Sunshine is a masterpiece of psychological cinema. It takes a step back and examines how Religion can affect a human life, both positively and negatively, and the film isn't afraid of pulling punches. This is an emotionally draining film, but I found the ending to be truly enlightening.
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Format: DVD
I recently saw this movie while working in Jinju, S.Korea, about 30 minutes from where this takes place. This movie is an accurate portrait of life in a mid-sized Korean city. It is ambiguous in the best sense of the word: critical of religion while not condemning. A portrait of exactly how one copes with the most horrible tragedy. The lead actress won a Cannes award for her performance and she deserves it. She is in turns funny, sad and pious, all shown in a perfectly measured, never exaggerated performance. This movie is unique and recommended without the slightest reservation.
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Lee Chang-Dong is a film professor turned director who is responsible for such acclaimed hits such as the fantastic "Peppermint Candy", the touching "Oasis" and "Green Fish". He has also been appointed as Korea's minister of culture and tourism at one point but has abandoned this post to concentrate on his filmmaking. This director has, on several occasions has managed to silence my voice because of the powerful portrayal of life in his films; it just strikes a chord in me and gets under my skin. "SECRET SUNSHINE" is no different, the film has won numerous awards and was given high praise in Cannes (Jeon Do-Yeon won best actress). It also enjoyed a phenomenal audience reaction in its limited run in America. The film is controversial; and it presents a very bleak view of Religion, Faith and (maybe?) brings up questions about the existence of God.

When her husband passes away after a car accident, Shin-Ae (Jeon Do-Yeon) and her son, Jun relocate down South to her husband's hometown of Miryang. She attempts to settle down by opening a small piano school and yet she finds that she can't fit in this unfamiliar but "very normal" place. Life goes on as she gains piano students with the aid of a car repair shop owner, Kim Jong-Chan (Song Kang-Ho, Sympathy of Mr. Vengeance) despite the fact that she finds his attentions to be nuisance. Her son, Jun seems to be adapting quite well to their new life but fate intervenes; their lives are turned upside-down when her son becomes a victim of a fatal kidnapping. (this is not a spoiler, all this happens in the first act/first few minutes of the film)
Shin-Ae turns to Christianity to relieve her pain and anger, but when something occurs that makes her question her faith, she begins to rebel against God.
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