My current state is absolute grief stricken. It has taken me so long to watch this movie and then to settle down to write about it it, for to write it is to revisit the raw internal emotions that this documentary has brought out. This beautiful movie of everlasting love and the final departure just left me absolutely emotionally wrecked. Even though the tears would not stop flowing even after the last end credit, the world around me is seen an even more precious and beautiful light. My Love, Don’t Cross that River is not just a documentary of love and death. It is a documentary for reflection and a call to be present in life.
The South Korean documentary follows the most loving and cutest elderly couple that has ever shuffled on this earth. The husband is Jo Byeong-man (98 yrs old) and his wife Kang Kye-yeol (89 yrs old). They may live a country life with beautiful nature around them but they are not quiet in the least. The husband is always teasing his wife, throwing leaves, splashing water, or singing songs to soothe her fears. They care for two little dogs and forage for their own food. Even though his health is ailing, the husband still carries bundles of sticks to warm their small home. Although her knees hurt, the wife still forages in the river to make their dinner. Their life is a routine of companionship and balance. They share in their aches and pains at the same time they laugh and smile.
The bulk of the movie is absolutely charming and slow. We watch the couple reminisce about how they met and the many things they do for each other. In between these moments is an increasing occurrence of the coughing from the husband. Although we expect it, it feels so sudden when he falls ill. For by that point, the audience has thoroughly fallen for this dear old man and we never want him to leave.
It is no spoiler that the husband passes away. The title gives it away and the first scene nails it thoroughly. It is not for his passing that this documentary must be experienced. It is essentially for the journey of the whole movie. As someone who spent much of her childhood in Buddhist Sunday school, this documentary reached an even deeper level on respecting life than all those monks could ever do. If it takes a fairy tale to imprint a lesson in a young mind, then this documentary is the ever after portion that will resonate with an older mind.
The documentary’s main story telling vehicle seems to showcases how true love really can happen. After about 10 minutes into the documentary there is another layer to the story that every single one of us has been guilty of. The layer of mortality itself. Although we are outsiders watching this lovely couple live their last days together, we are forcibly drawn into the truth. The truth that death is an incoming and inevitable thing. The burden of regret and remorse becomes heavier and harder to unburden. It takes so much patience and awareness to keep moving forward even though death is looming by. It is truly hard to think of our loved ones or the ones who have already passed away. Are we ever truly ready for them to leave this world? Even if we perform the rituals or bawl our regrets, we are never ready for that person to go. The loss is sudden and hollowing. It can make anyone feel like just a small speck of a person in the great wide somewhere.
Several key things during the filming that made all of these thoughts settle deep within. Most of the scenes were filmed from a great distance seeming to emphasize two things. One is how we ourselves want to distance ourselves from this couple and their oncoming end of days, even though we do love this couple. When there are close ups, it is to showcase the emotions, the wrinkles, the tiredness. From far away, the couple seem happy, young, and carefree. Up close, we can see their aches, their shrinking bodies. The wide sweeping shots of the countryside just helps make one feel so very small but also in so much awe.
My Love,Don’t Cross that River has earned every once of praise it has received. This is a documentary that is worth experiencing even as your soul shatters into bits. The documentary is currently being screened at Laemmele theaters. Check your local theater providers.Also bring tissues. Lots of tissues. Then go hug everyone you love.