Teeming with incident, full of emotions, roiling with anger, Secret Sunshine is nevertheless something like a blank canvas. Director Lee Chang-dong’s protracted yet endlessly involving tale of grief and regeneration is a classically tailored assemblage of small, clipped moments, prizing the intricacies of human behavior but also acknowledging it as remote and difficult to define. Likewise, Cannes Best Actress-winner Do-yeon Jeon, who remains the center of the film for its 142-minute running time, is kept at a curious arm’s length—every time we feel we’re one step closer to her, the film takes two steps back. Though Secret Sunshine’s schizophrenic storytelling ensures that Do-yeon will toggle between hope, desperation, despair, hostility, and peace, the director makes all of these fluctuations as ungraspable as gusts of wind.
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