the way home (2002)

The Way Home (Jibeuro), is a simple portrayal of the relationship between a young boy and his grandmother.

Seven year old Sang-woo is left in the care of Grandmother while his mother looks for work in Seoul. Transplanted from his modern city life to a tiny rural village, Sang-woo spends most of the film in a strop. Screaming and crying, he steals his grandmother's treasured hair-pin to buy batteries for his video-game player, and berates her and her way of life on every occasion. He shows no awareness of her struggle to care for him, the harshness of her daily life, nor of her love for him.

Grandmother - old as the lush green hills, bent double, her face wrinkled and dry - is mute. She communicates with the slightest of signs, the gentlest touch on the shoulder. Her neighbours have learned her signs but her grandson lacks the care or patience to try. Yet her patient, unobtrusive care is enough, and eventually the boy sees her, and loves her.

She reminded, once again, me of Margaret Moers Wenig's sermon, God is a Woman and She is Growing Older.
God is a woman and she is growing older. She moves more slowly now. She cannot stand erect. Her face is lined. Her voice is scratchy. Sometimes she has to strain to hear. God is a woman and she is growing older; yet, she remembers everything.

On Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of the day on which she gave us birth, God sits down at her kitchen table, opens the Book of Memories, and begins turning the pages; and God remembers.

"There, there is the world when it was new and my children when they were young." As she turns each page she smiles, seeing before her, like so many dolls in a department store window, all the beautiful colors of our skin, all the varied shapes and sizes of our bodies. She marvels at our accomplishments: the music we have written, the gardens we have planted, the stories we have told, the ideas we have spun.

"They now can fly faster than the winds I send," she says to herself, "and they sail across the waters which I gathered into seas. They even visit the moon which I set in the sky. But they rarely visit me."There pasted into the pages of her book are all the cards we have ever sent to her when we did not bother to visit. She notices our signatures3 scrawled beneath the printed words someone else has composed.

In the film, it is the boy who leaves cards for his illiterate grandmother to send to him on his return to Seoul. The night before he leaves, he draws pictures on the back of card after card: "I miss you" say some; and others, "I am ill." Then he will know when she needs him to take care of her.

Click below for the trailer of The Way Home, which highlights the comical aspects of the film:

More on The Way Home here and here.


rachel said…
nikol - thanks for your comment. I removed the link as I do not have enough knowledge of Judaism to comment on the origins of Rosh Hashanah.