If you’ve ever suffered the sudden and untimely death of a loved one, there’s much that will resonate in Last Child, director Dong-seok Shin’s slow-burning debut feature.
The marriage of Sungcheol and Misook (Kim and Choi) has rapidly deteriorated following the death of their son Eunchan, their family homestead transformed into a chilly realm of closed doors and stony silences. When they slowly begin to bond with Seong Yu-bin’s Kihyun – the boy their son gave his life to save – could there be a chance to overcome their grief together?
Well, yes and no. Eliciting compelling and measured performances from his central trio, Shin makes it clear that there are no easy fixes to be found here. It’s a moving watch, if not always a comfortable one, with all three characters struggling under the immeasurable burden left by Eunchan and his death. Kim Yeo-jin particularly impresses as the brittle Misook, a grieving mother barely keeping herself together in the face of the worst tragedy imaginable.
There’s a naïve unspoken hope shared by the trio – and perhaps the audience as well – that maybe this growing relationship can fix what’s been irrevocably broken. In a more disingenuous movie, this might be the case. But devastating revelations eventually come to light that drastically complicate the fragile solace they find in one another. While still narratively compelling, it’s from this point that the film begins to stumble, building to an uneven conclusion that feels ill-fitting and disconnected to what preceded it.
An affecting study of bereavement with a stunning trio of central performances, Last Child is ultimately let down in its final act. A slow, quiet examination of grief and guilt is abandoned as the narrative veers sharply into a melodramatic conclusion that seems to belong in an entirely different movie.
CAST: Choi Moo-seong, Kim Yeo-jin, Seong Yu-bin
DIRECTOR: Shin Dong-seok
WRITER: Shin Dong-seok
SYNOPSIS: When his son Euchan dies saving classmate Kihyun from drowning, Euchan’s grieving father takes the boy under his wing. But moving on proves difficult, especially as more details surrounding the exact circumstances of Kihyun’s rescue begin to surface.