#94: Oasis

Oasis (2002) — Dir. Lee Chang-dong

Part of the Top 150 Films series

If Oasis were made 100 times with 100 permutations, 99 of the resulting films would be dreadful. Changing a line of dialogue or camera placement would have the potential to throw the tone of the film entirely off-kilter into “Very Special Movie” territory. A young man released from prison visits the widow of the man he killed drink-driving. There he meets her daughter, wheelchair bound with cerebral palsy. The two hit it off. As a love story, it’s challenging yet tender. As a glance at modern society and its treatment of outsiders, it’s humanistic yet scathing. As a performance showcase, it’s unparalleled in modern cinema. Sol Kyung-gu, as the ex-con, and Moon So-ri, as the daughter, are extraordinary in extraordinarily difficult roles, inviting empathy with a glance or smile. Given the film’s direction as it goes on, it’s amazing how something so beautiful can emerge from something so initially off-putting.