I started watching the Korean film Poetry expecting it to be a fairly uninteresting but aesthetically pleasing story about a woman preparing to die. Lots of calm scenery and quiet struggles, a dash of social consciousness. Done.
Instead of this, I found myself sobbing through a good third of the movie. When I wasn't crying because of the heart-wrenching tragedy of the thing, I was overwhelmed by its honest beauty and realistic portrayal of human goodness. So much of the best and worst of human nature is captured in this movie, and balanced so perfectly from one scene to the next — without mood music or melodrama or unpleasant plot contrivances — that I'm tempted to offer up Poetry as the best film portrait of humanity I have ever seen. This is one of those rare works of realist cinema that gives viewers not just a startling insight into the difficulties of human nature (e.g. Cries and Whispers), or a heart-wrenching invitation to social consciousness (Umberto D), but also a vision of human joy and natural beauty that, because of its modest particularity and ordinariness, is sufficient to counterbalance the other darker truths and give us a reprieve from our grief. If ever a film attested to the grace present in creation which allows goodness to survive through evil, this was it. Watch it. You won't be disappointed. Poetry might change your life. (5)