My Love, Don’t Cross That River Review

AKA: Nim-a, Geu Gang-eul Geonneoji Mao
Genre: Documentary/Romance
Year Released: 2013
Distributor: Film Movement Classics
Origin: South Korea
Running Time: 85 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 12+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Comadres, Wrinkles
-The film personnel and people will be addressed under Western naming conventions.
Fun Facts:
-My Love, Don’t Cross That River has two records to that movie’s name in it’s native country. After it was released, this documentary became South Korea’s highest grossing documentary AND independent film of all time in that nation. After reviewing the Canadian documentary The Corporation, this would be the second film I’ve reviewed where it was an entire country’s best-selling doc.

-This is the theatrical debut of Mo-young Jin. He’s been a director and producer for television specials, but this was his first time making a movie outside of that medium.

-The couple featured in My Love, had been previously shown on South Korean TV in a multi-episode documentary series called Gray-Haired Lovers on KBS. That channel is roughly the equivalent of PBS in South Korea, by the way.

-My Love, Don’t Cross That River takes place in Gangwon Province which is in the Northern part of South Korea. That province did get some international attention because that’s the same province where Pyeongchang is and it’s the same city that held the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Marriage is something that is a wonderful thing. However, mainstream society (especially here in America) takes that for granted. You have so many divorces, infidelity, and so many broken relationships around worldwide. That kind of devotion is a lost art much like how I feel chivalry is. I then stumbled upon a real-life story involving a case of long-lasting devotion. By long-lasting, I’m talking about a relationship that lasted seventy-six years in marriage between two aging lovebirds.

My Love, Don’t Cross That River is a documentary dealing with the lives of Byeong-man Jo and his wife Kye-yeol Kang who are ninety-five and ninety years old respectively. They live in the rural parts of Hoengseong County in South Korea in a small house. They take care of the house, but they never make life boring. They always hug each other, play pranks, and Byeong-man sings to his devoted wife whenever they have some down time. The couple have several children, grandchildren, and possibly great-grandchildren since they have a large extended family. This documentary deals with their lives over fifteen months. Given their advanced age, this also becomes the last year and change of this marriage.

This was such a wonderful story. Forget about all of those lovey-dovey stories about high school romances, stupid rom-coms, harem anime, or god forbid…naughty harlequin novels. Seriously, this documentary alone would put all of that media to shame to most romance fans. It was very fascinating seeing this story play out with Byeong-man and Kye-yeol being there for each in sickness and in health (later on, it becomes quite literal). Seeing this couple do little things like cooking, hanging out, and going to a picnic with other senior citizens was fun despite the minutia going on. One can really see how much they love each other. One scene that I thought was funny was when the couple goes to a clothing store in town to pick up a few things. There’s a sales associate who is on the older side. She reveals that she’s seventy-six years old and Kye-yeol tells her she looks like a “young bride”. The employee could even pass as being her daughter despite being old enough to be a grandma herself. It was fascinating seeing how age affects people’s perspectives on things.

Speaking of the clothing store, it lead to one of the most powerful moments in the film that I actually cried in. The couple buys long john pajamas for three to six year olds. The aforementioned employee assumes they are going to buy them for the youngest grandkids or great-grandkids. However, after they buy the pajamas, it’s revealed that Kye-yeol gave birth to twelve children all together. Unfortunately, only half of them survived. Some of the lost children died of diseases and one died in the Korean War. Seeing them choke up got me crying. Those pajamas were for all of the departed children because they couldn’t afford nice pajamas for them back then and they were used as a memorial of sorts. The level of emotional gravitas was tremendous and I dare anyone not to cry once that scene happens in the middle of the film. Trust me, that scene alone should’ve won every award in the world.

My Love, Don’t Cross That River is a great documentary, but I can’t say everything was untouchable. I was not a fan of the sound design and soundtrack. Random sounds like water running or snow crunching sound way too machinated. If I closed my eyes and heard some of the sound design on those scenes, then I would think I was listening to some acousmatic soundtracks. I should know. My project Ospreyshire involves acousmatics especially on my debut EP. The soundtrack itself was too schmaltzy and made some events cheesier than what it should be. I think they should’ve used no soundtrack or at least a more understated soundtrack would’ve been a better choice. One thing that should’ve been changed was the fact that they should’ve named the couple straight on. I had no idea who the couple’s name was until I saw the credits and did my research about this film. There was also a lack of development with the extended family who show up briefly in some parts.

This Korean documentary was a great film that people should check out. For someone who isn’t a fan of most romantic media, I certainly found this to be worth my time. I have rarely seen stories especially real-life ones where you can experience the love and devotion being shown. In a world of glorifying cheating, side chicks, and rampant sex, watching this film was a godsend on so many levels. The cinematography worked very well with it’s no-frills approach. Kye-yeol and Byeoung-man were such a joy seeing together and their decades long marriage was amazing. I wasn’t a fan with a lack of background on parts of their family or the sound design though. My Love, Don’t Cross That River was a great watch and it’s certainly a recommended documentary.

Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you like real life romances.
Subtract 1-2 points if you prefer documentaries about more serious subjects.

-Good cinematography
-Amazing documentary storytelling and the portrayal of the couple
-The pajama scene is such a wonderful tearjerker

-Mediocre soundtrack and sound design
-Lack of background about family members
-Names aren’t mentioned in the doc until the credits

Final Score: 8/10 points

Content Warning: My Love, Don’t Cross The River is a tame documentary, but there are some heavy subjects. Death is mentioned and shown with two individuals (spoilers avoided). One of the lovers gets very sick and they get thinner as time goes on in the film which anyone can notice right away. There’s also one brief scene of rear nudity when someone is bathing.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. My Love, Don’t Cross That River is property of Film Movement Classics. The DVD cover is property of Film Movement.

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