For what initially seems like an interminable amount of time that you would have to spend on watching a film, ‘A Sun’ proves to be a searingly beautiful family drama. The film starts off with a snail’s pace but there’s something about its empathetic commentary on human relationships and the utter realism of all of its characters, which makes it a deep and overwhelming sensory experience.
It is a spectacular testament to the talents of director Chung Mong-hong, who also won the Golden Horse award for his incredible work in the film. ‘A Sun’ comes off as a journey that is ambitious, confident and unbelievably profound. Its bittersweet denouncement feels like the end of a necessary rite of passage, where a once-grieving family, looks forward to a richer and fondly life. It is, arguably, one gem of a movie that succeeds on every level, with each character and scene, firing on all cylinders to make it worth numerous viewings, despite its long runtime.
‘A Sun’ is a domestic melodrama in which a family is forced to go through several trials and tribulations before they see the light at the end of the tunnel. The domineering father of the family keeps chanting his credo: “Seize the day, decide your path.” And while he’s at it, the rest of the family just succumbs to the expectations that are enforced on them. His two sons turn out to be the polar opposites of each other.
While the younger son, A-ho, ends up landing himself in a juvenile center after getting involved with some “wrong people,” the elder son, A-hao, is the ideal child and very well lives up to everything that is expected from him. However, A-hao, too, has some dark secrets that he keeps from everyone and eventually, it is this darkness that ripples devastating consequences onto everyone in his family.
When the tragedy finally strikes the family, it is cataclysmic and unutterably sad. And as the film subtly moves towards this moment, as a viewer, you can’t help but empathize with everyone who is affected by it. During this process, the film presents calming backdrops of white and greys that slowly build your love for all of the characters. Despite all of their flaws and imperfections, they all have a story to tell and learn to deal with grief in their own personal ways. For the most part, the film either relies on the most simplistic background scores or just keeps things eerily silent. This itself pays off spades and casts a brief spell of realism.
The first half of the film revolves around fleshing out all of the main characters and its beauty lies in its passing time and little, inconsequential moments—moments that are not only captured by the depth of the script but also by the incredible performances of all the leading actors. The intense dynamic of the family in this part of the film is so powerful that it would have easily carried the film even if the script wasn’t so good.
Somewhere midway through its runtime, the “center” of the family drops out and suddenly, they find themselves drowning in darkness. However, eventually, it is these chronicles of the whirlwinds of relationships that allow them to find peace and brief moments of happiness. Their tragedies prove to be major catalysts for change—a source of surprisingly new lessons that all of them will carry forward. And while the family goes through this painful yet necessary catharsis, as a viewer, you can’t help but experience all of it deeply as a bystander.
Given how the film explores the complex dynamics of a family, it is hard to think about it is as fundamentally optimistic in any way. However, with no wistful looks or swallowed grief, ‘A Sun’ closes with a thought that is equally provocative: “Everything is going to be just fine.” In conclusion, with its guise of a family drama, ‘A Sun’ is a feel-good movie in its own way and is certainly worth your time. Both literally and metaphorically, ‘A Sun’ very well manages to break into the light of the day and leaves you with a tear or two.