Let me warn you by saying that a movie hasn’t made me cry tears of blood in a long time until Miracle in Cell No.7 (flashback to The Fault in Our Stars and A Moment to Remember). I’ve been seeing this movie mentioned in many Facebook statuses, often followed with the words/emojis “feeling sad”. Curious and fueled by the discovery that it stars the angelic Park ShinHye, I downloaded, sat in front of my laptop and pressed play. I should have brought a fresh box of tissues.
Miracle in Cell No.7 tells the story of Lee Yonggu (Ryu Seung Ryong), a mentally impaired man who is raising his 6-year old daughter Yesung. Yes it sounds like I Am Sam, but this is where the links end, full stop. Father and daughter live a simple, happy life, with Yonggu making a humble living enough to sustain their needs. Yesung dotes on her father, her smarts easily filling in for what Yonggu lacks. But then a child is still a child, and in Yesung’s case, a Sailor Moon backpack is her weakness, and is eventually the trigger that blew their lives apart.
In a state of Sailor Moon bag-fueled determinism, Yonggu chases after a young girl (unfortunately, the police commissioner’s daughter). In the next moment, Yonggu is discovered in an alley, hunched over the child’s dead body. The girl’s pants open, Yonggu on top of her, a blood-stained brick beside them – it was a scene enough to send anyone to prison, and with the commissioner’s wild grief and powerful influence, that is exactly what happens. Yonggu is tossed into high security cell no.7 with an assortment of criminals, awaiting a trial that will most certainly sentence him to death.
Despite this, Yonggu’s stay in cell no. 7 becomes anything but a downward spiral to depression. Initially bullied by his cellmates in their disgust (they have criminal morals, mind you) of Yonggu’s “crime,” they bullied the man, until he proves himself and gains their trust. Next order of business is to reunite Yonggu with Yesung, and while these antics stood out as the most unconvincing from the plot, they are easily forgiven. Yesung was the miracle in cell no.7, lighting up their dingy tiny prison hole and lending them happiness. As the story progresses, the criminals peel off their layers like onions, revealing stories behind their convictions, and jelling together as one dysfunctional family centered around Yesung.
The prison warden Jang MinHwan (the lovely, dapper Jung JinYoung), initially livid at Yonggu as well for supposedly killing and raping a child, sees the holes in this quick conviction and becomes their unlikely ally. He tries the lawful path, pointing out to the commissioner the glaring truths presented in the evidence. But sometimes, grief knows no logic; only pain and vindication.
The movie gets under your skin, making you laugh while crying and cry while laughing in a full rollercoaster of emotions. You need that box of tissues, in key scenes you would feel the need to break something, because the film makes you care. Kal SoWon played the young Yesung like she was your own daughter, your own sister, lighting up the screen, fueling that tiny spark of hope. By the time Park Shinhye takes over you would be gripping your heart, praying that somehow, father and daughter managed to escape their doom. The hot air balloon soars, it catches on the barb gate, and the rest of the plot unfolds. With that you need to reach for that tissue again. Curse you, Sailor Moon.
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