For this week’s Film Friday, we’re watching Miracle in Cell No.7 and you should be too! It’s a prime example of Korean cinema at its very best. It is difficult to articulate in words how fantastic it is. It just needs to be seen by everyone whether you’re a fan of Asian cinema or not. We could just leave it at that really…
A mentally challenged father is falsely charged with the kidnap and murder of a child and sent to prison. Yong-goo lives alone with his young daughter, Ye-sung, who adores him. Ye-sung and her father have an incredibly touching relationship. Due to Yong-goo’s handicap, he appears somewhat more immature than his independent daughter who makes sure he eats enough at work and doesn’t catch a cold. Yong-goo’s downfall occurs when he tries to acquire a Sailor Moon bag for his daughter but ends up caught in a tense moment with an unconscious girl. His CPR technique looks questionable and he is sent to prison on indecent charges. The plot gets interesting when Yong-goo saves the life of one of his cell-mates and is granted a favour in return. Yong-goo’s only wish is to see his daughter… and the prisoners make it happen.
The film jumps forward in time on occasions and we see an older Ye-sung, now a lawyer, fighting her father’s case to prove his innocence. The young victim from all those years ago happens to be the chief of the National Police Academy’s daughter who also wants justice for her death.
The strength in this films lies in its originality. The characters are so truthful and humane. If you’re familiar with any Korean drama or film, you’ll know how sleazy and cruel the police force are portrayed. In Miracle in Cell No.7, you couldn’t get any further away from that stereotype. The chief of the prison, who hated Yong-goo as soon as he clapped eyes on him, ends up doing everything he can to prove his innocence. The team of prisoners and prison staff is such a palpable union that reaffirms faith in humanity. Both officials and inmates collectively look out for Yong-goo and his daughter, putting their jobs and lives at stake to free them.
The star of the film is the actress who plays sweet Ye-sung. Kal So-won’s deliverance on screen during the toughest moments is incredible. The talent pool for child actors in Korea is incomparable. They really are the best.
Although Miracle in Cell No.7 is a tear-jerker, it has some comedic relief in the form of the other inmates Yong-goo shares a cell with. They are characterised as humans who have their own backstories and pasts rather than brutal criminals without any empathetic tendencies. The influence of Ye-sung on each of them is one of the sweetest plot points in the film.
Ultimately, Miracle in Cell No.7 is an extraordinary mix of courtroom, family and social drama with heavy themes and tear inducing scenes. I haven’t cried this much at a Korean film since Wish…
Director: Lee Hwan-kyung
Cast: Ryoo Seung-ryong, Kal So-won, Oh Dal-su, Park Shin-hye.
Check out the trailer!