25 October 2020

K Movie Review: The Last Princess (2016) 4 || 4.5

Our drama viewing has slowed down considerably. Blame it on our poor health and drama choices. But we're catching up. We're finishing one drama tonight and another one on Tuesday so it's going to be a very busy week for us. :D

I prefer watching drama finales at night so we're saving the last episode of Coffee Prince for tonight. That's why this afternoon, we watched a film instead. 

The Last Princess tells the story of the Joseon Dynasty's last princess. The film starts in around 1925. After Princess Deok Hye's (Son Ye Jin) father was poisoned for refusing to have Joseon unite with Japan, life had been very difficult for the royal family. Deok Hye was forced to move to Japan to study because she was perceived to be a threat. 

In Japan, Deok Hye stayed with his brother who married a Japanese royalty. They were watched closely but fortunately, the guy (Park Hae Il as Kim Jang Han) Deok Hye's dad wanted her to marry found a way to infiltrate the Japanese troops. He was serving Deok Hye's brother while at the same time plotting a way to get Deok Hye and her family to go in exile. 

Unfortunately, their escape plan was foiled and they were all captured. Deok Hye was forced to marry a Japanese count (Kim Jae Wook of Coffee Prince as So Takeyuki) with whom she had a daughter. 

After Japan surrendered in 1945, Deok Hye tried to go back to South Korea with her daughter but royalties were not allowed to return due to destabilization fears. Deok Hye went on to divorce her husband. Two years later, their daughter committed suicide. All these misfortunes were probably just too much for Deok Hye that she was eventually admitted to a mental facility. 

Deok Hey would have been totally forgotten and left to die in Japan had it not been for Jang Han who persisted in finding her. He was now a reporter and with his connections, he was finally able to find Deok Hye and he convinced the South Korean government to allow the Joseon royalty to return. Deok Hye returned in 1962 and died in South Korea in 1989. Her brother managed to come home a few years after Deok Hye although he was already in coma by then and he died after around three years. 

We loved watching this film because we missed watching Son Ye Jin. We last saw her in Something in the Rain and that was a long time ago. As expected, her acting was again topnotch. She can really do it all - meek, sad, angry, in love, happy, scared, etc. Name it and Ye Jin can do it. Her acting was so moving, especially her old version of Deok Hye. 

Her homecoming and how she slowly regained her memory of the people she was with in the past were both happy and heartbreaking. It was so sad to think of all the years that she lost. 

According to Oppa, Jang Han was actually the star of the film and the title should have been The Last Princess' Protector. And that's quite right. Although Deok Hye seemed to be in the forefront of things because she was the royalty, the events that unfolded would not have been possible had it not been for Jang Han. And while it's our first time to watch Park Hae Il, we were impressed. His old version transformation looked so natural. I wondered why we have not heard of him in dramas. When I checked, I found out that he mostly does films. 

The cast was great over-all. Even the villains were perfect for their roles. It was also nice to see Kim So Hyun (Love Alarm) as the young Deok Hye. 

My favorite, however, would have to be Ra Mi Ran (Reply 1988) who played the role of Bok Sun, Deok Hye's assistant. Bok Sun's fierce loyalty to Deok Hye was so admirable. It was totally heartbreaking when she was taken away from Deok Hye. I'm just glad they were able to have that well-deserved reunion when Deok Hye returned to South Korea. Mi Ran is such an amazing actress. She still managed to inject poise and grace to her role even if she was just an assistant. 

I loved how this film was both historical and entertaining. This story was a painful reminder that nobody really wins in war. Families are separated, people get killed, properties are damaged, and a lot of people suffer irreparable injury (physically, mentally, and emotionally). And while people try their best to heal afterwards, you just cannot make up for lost time. And the least you can do is to make things a bit more bearable for them perhaps by honoring the memories of those who died or like in this film, letting them return to their homeland. 

This film was also proof that not all war heroes work in the frontlines. There are people like Jang Han and Deok Hye who work behind the scenes. And that does not make their work any less important or heroic. 

I was wondering though why Deok Hye seemed to have been quickly forgotten by her people. I often hear the Joseon Dynasty mentioned in dramas and I suppose it's one of the more popular dynasties in Korea. Were Deok Hye's people brainwashed to forget about her? 

Oppa was wondering if films like this do not create any resentment against Japanese people. He thought that probably the Korean viewers are mature enough to handle stories like this. I know Koreans are still very sensitive towards the Japanese but I'm proud that they're brave enough to face their history through films like this. I wish I can say the same about my country where past colonizers and oppressors are sometimes even glorified. Perhaps we need to make films like this too so our people will never forget. 

P.S. I have not fact checked the film's version of the story so I can't comment on how accurate it was. 

Oppa says...4. 

Noona says...4.5.