(By Evan McKinney) In South Korea, if you bring up the topic of actor/model Daniel Henney, you’re sure to cause a girl to faint from a wave of desire. He is well-known for starring in Korean dramas, and because he is not fluent in Korean, he earns further recognition from his fans when he speaks. His most recent venture into the motion media realm is the South Korean film “My Father.”
The story goes that a Korean boy, as a very young child, was adopted by an American couple and raised with a second Korean native, his adopted and unrelated foster sister. The two of them grow up in an American town for nearly their entire first couple of decades of life speaking only English since they were too young to be able to communicate in Korean at the time.
Some time after Daniel Henney’s character, James, has graduated from high school (and presumably college, but I don’t believe this was mentioned), he decides he wants to seek out his biological father. He plans to do this by enlisting in the American military and being stationed in South Korea. From there, James begins a search for his father, and eventually finds him in a federal prison on death row.
As a side note, I am not fluent in Korean. I have been studying the language for only about four months at this point. Since Daniel Henney’s first language is English, inevitably he would be chosen for this role, and literally about a quarter, if not more, of the film is spoken in English by him and other characters. A sizable portion of the rest of the dialogue was translated by a Korean as a part of the plot, so viewers wind up hearing about fifty percent of the film’s lines in English. Anything I did not understand was explained to me by my friend.
This brings us to the dialogue of the film. Any person who has watched a film from Asia which has English lines probably expects that the quality of the script will drop. While it is not the case with all such films (Beat Takeshi’s “Brother”), it is the case with the majority. “My Father” is no exception. Particularly in the first scenes in the film, the English dialogue is horrendous and the acting almost matches it, making an English speaker feel as though s/he is in for the worst. Lucky for the viewer, the dialogue has its high points, and in fact the quality rises after James is in Korea for awhile.
I’m not sure of the correct term here, but the acting has a fairly noticeable rise in quality as well. There is a certain scene in “My Father” that demonstrates Daniel Henney’s increase in acting skills. In this scene, he is seen weeping and crying so unbelievably that specific camera angles and editing techniques were clearly used to cover this fact. After this scene Henney’s acting became near-stellar. Is it easier to act out intense emotions to actors who do not understand what you’re saying?
All-in-all, the film was a tear-jerker. I was sitting in a rather large theater in downtown Daegu, and it was nearly sold out with ticket holders eager to see Daniel Henney in person; he showed up and gave a brief speech which was split — not translated — into Korean and English halves. By the end of the film, many viewers could be heard sniffling and weeping at the outcome.
In fact, unless you did prior research on the film, you may be quite surprised at the very last scene of the movie. I’ll leave that bit of info to your discretion.
Dong Hyeuk Hwang (director)
CAST: Daniel Henney … James
Richard Riehle … John Parker
Ilene Graff … Nancy Parker
Brian F. Durkin … Gabe Willis
Craig Zimmerman … Steve Parker
Sarah Chang … Sandra