Mija, a 66 year-old woman, is raising her daughter's grumpy teenaged son and trying to make ends meet with a part-time job as a maid for an elderly, wealthy man who has suffered a stroke.

She finds herself searching for nouns, and after consulting a doctor, is told bluntly that she has early Alzheimer's disease.

Perhaps because of her preoccupation with language, she joins a poetry class and strives to write, listening carefully to the poet-instructor's philosophical advice on vision and creativity. Throughout the film, she carries a little notebook with her and pauses to write her thoughts about flowers, beauty, birds, and apples.

A young girl in the grandson's class has committed suicide by drowning and Mija witnesses the mother's grief. From the girl's diary, the teachers and family learn that she had been repeatedly raped by six boys, one of whom is Mija's grandson.

The fathers of the other boys try to make a monetary settlement with the bereaved mother; they urge Mija too find an extraordinay amount money. In despair, she extorts the money from her employer as a "favour"-but the boy is utterly indifferent to her action, and in the end, is taken by the police anyway. Mija summons her daughter. She leaves a bouquet of flowers and the one poem that she managed to compose for her instructor to find at the last class. The daughter arrives to an empty home and we assume Mija has drowned herself.



A slow paced, mesmerizingly beautiful film that features the waters, fields, and mountains of Korea as a backdrop for the sad story. Mija is gentle, dutiful, devoted, and she tries to be cheerful-but no amount of her goodness and optimism can reverse the miserable circumstances that engulf her.

The Alzheimer thread is dropped quickly, but plausible tension can be found in the relationship with the employer and the reactions of the parents to the crimes of their sons (they commit another crime by buying the mother's silence).

Poetry pervades Mija's attempt to make things right, the way she admonishes her grandson about keeping his body clean and his mind; the way she offers herself as retribution, the only just payment for the sins of her own flesh. 


A novellist before becoming a filmaker, the writer-director served as a Minister of Culture in the Korean government from 2003 to 2004.

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