I come from a unique position of watching the two versions of Miracle in Cell No. 7 in one day. Not only that, I watched the remake before the original. See, I had this film in my TBR pile for quite some time but did not want to watch it despite the positive reviews because I am a crybaby when it comes to family dramas. There, I said it. And true to my instincts, this Korean film destroyed me.
Synopsis: Yong Goo (Ryu Seung Ryeong) is a mentally handicapped man who works hard to support the love of his life, his only daughter, Ye Seong (Kal So won). Despite his limitations, Yong Goo and Ye Seong live happily. However, the accidental death of the police commissioner’s daughter is pinned on Yong Goo and he is railroaded to prison, separating him from his child.
What makes Miracle in Cell No. 7 such a compelling film from the start is the amazing acting skills and chemistry of veteran actor Ryu Seung Ryeong and young star Kal So Won. From the first scene to the last, there was a consistency in their portrayal of a father and daughter who absolutely loved and supported each other. Ryu Seung Ryeong never missed his mark as the mentally retarded father of a bringht young girl, but the purity of his love was conveyed with such genuine emotion it would be hard not to get carried away.
I loved how Yong Goo was able to win over his cellmates with his kindness and innocence, even without actively trying. In the same vein, I loved how his his kindness was also embedded in his own daughter. Yong Goo did not think twice about saving other people at the cost of his own safety. His daughter was the same. She went the extra mile to help her “uncles” in jail. She taught them how to read, sneaked in a phone for them to contact their families and brought them much happiness. Both father and daughter were angels to those they met.
I loved that while the supporting cast played a major role in the lives of Yong Goo and Ye Seong, the focus never left the pair. The suporting cast helped build on the characters of the father and daughter and lifted up the scenes with their understated but effective performance. I also liked how quiet and determined the prison chief was but he was the one stuck up with Yong Goo until the end.
There were less tearjerker moments for the original Miracle in Cell No. 7 compared to the remake. It employed a more subtle and quiet approach to the dramatics. It made audiences invest in the relationshop of the father and daughter, as well as the friendships they developed in jail so audiences were on the same page when they rolled out the final scene. Personally, I thought the remake was great but the original was on a whole different plane.
I liked that the story not just focused in what happened in jail, but also shone the spotlight on the injustice that befell Yong Goo, an innocent man who was wrongfully accused. The scene where grown up Ye Seong tried to insert herself in her father’s past trial and the way she tearfully reached out to comfort a confused Yong Goo, was a masterful touch. It effectively coveyed the child’s sense of helplessness in the face of her father’s ordeal. When the case was finally closed with a simple glance at her father’s image, it gave audiences closure that justice was finally served.
Miracle in Cell No. 7 made a lot of better calls than the remake. The ending was clearer and made more sense. The remake’s ending would make it more confusing for some what became of Yong Goo’s character but the original made sure that it was clear. Also, aging up the cellmates with bad make up in the remake was worse compared to the original’s chooce of just aging them with much older styles.
All in all, both the original and the remake were great movies but the original Miracle in Cell No. 7 was on a different level. It delivered on a film that personifies an innocence that grips on the heartstrings and never lets go. Amazing film. Worth every tear.