WEDDING DRESS (2010)
Sentimental yet genuine in its dewy-eyed evocation, a single mother with terminal cancer seeks to teach life lessons to her head-strong young daughter
The single mother facing death, the winsome child, the fury and sadness of an abrupt end to life, Wedding Dress could have been an on-the-nose mush-fest. A film too obviously jabbing at our universal emotional pressure points.
Indeed, the first act of the film does flirt with such notions. An overly melodramatic haze, clouding anything of emotional worth from shining through. However, it is a film that settles into its stride superbly. An obvious attempt at a tear-jerker that, by its final scenes, largely manages to stick its landing.
Death can be a more common theme of cinema than real life. Despite the unavoidable fate of the end of our lives, we often keep such concerns at bay by simply shelving them. Films like Wedding Dress challenge us to imagine what an early death may mean to us. It is uncomfortable, but great cinema often is exactly that.
Go-eun (Song Yoon-ah) is a wedding dress designer, stressed out by dealing with bridezillas and incompetent colleagues, and raising her daughter as a single mum after the death of her husband.
Her daughter, So-ra (Kim Hyang-gi), while adorable for us onlookers, can also be refractory and forgetful, getting into fights with friends at school and sneaking away from her ballet lessons each week.
As Go-eun attempts to juggle work and motherhood, she falls ill and is handed a terminal cancer diagnosis. Given this devastating news, her priorities shift. She must impart the basic life lessons that have been lost in the daily mayhem. Getting So-ra to manage her friendships, remember her umbrella on rainy days, and getting over a germophobia that ruins several meals.
As the title suggests, the honour of making So-ra's wedding dress when that day comes in her adulthood, also consumes Go-eun’s focus, though this is a very minor side mission in the film’s narrative. Indeed, fans of wedding dresses might feel left down by such a title.
So-ra, a smart and switched on youngster, realises the seriousness of her mother’s condition and seeks to make an amends for her spiky conduct, including finally practising for that ballet recital.
As Go-eun’s heath worsens, including her eye sight fading to a blur, she tries to impart the final pearls of wisdom that can prepare So-ra for her years ahead.
Wedding Dress is a film where you can instantly see where progress is heading. But, anchored by fine performances of Song Yoon-ah and Kim Hyang-gi, this obviously play on our heartstrings achieves its aim.
It manages to evoke several of the emotions that those who face death feel – sadness at the plight, anger at the unfairness, concern for the futures of those left behind, including a young girl who has already suffered the death of their father.
“Don’t die Mommy, you’re all that I have,” wails So-ra. Expect to find something in your eye.