Tugging shamelessly yet persuasively on the heartstrings, "Ode to My Father" is an epic South Korean melodrama capturing more than half a century of recent history through the eyes of an everyman shopkeeper.
Director JK Youn, responsible for the tsunami blockbuster "Tidal Wave," has an undeniable knack for crafting crowd-rousing, character-driven spectacle.
Here, the elderly father in question, Deok-Su (played by Hwang Jung-min in not-so-convincing old age makeup) looks back over an eventful life beginning with a harrowing escape during the Korean War along with 14,000 refugees aboard the U.S. cargo freighter Meredith Victory.
But his arrival in South Korea is just one momentous stop in a life that also takes him to Germany in the mid-'60s, where he works as a coal miner and meets his future wife (Yunjin Kim), as well as to war-torn Vietnam in the '70s.
Each sequence is masterfully calibrated for maximum lip-quivering effect, swelling strings and all, but none jab at the tear ducts more than the re-creation of a 1983 live TV broadcast that reunited families displaced by the Korean War.
Like that television event, "Ode to My Father," which handily topped the final "Hobbit" installment at the South Korean box office, mines human drama to undeniable effect, emotionally connecting with audiences.
"Ode to My Father"
No MPAA rating.
Running time: 2 hours, 6 minutes.