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The Way Home (집으로 – Jibeuro) is a 2002 film written and directed by Lee Jeong-hyang. It was the second-highest grossing local film in South Korea in 2002. It was released on DVD, with English subtitles, in 2003 by Paramount.
- Kim Eul-boon – Grandmother
- Yu Seung-ho – Sang-woo
- Min Kyung-hyun – Cheil-e, the little girl in the village
- Dong Hyo-hee – Sang-woo’s Mother
- Yim Eun-kyung – Hae Yeon
The Way Home or Jibeuro is a heart-breaking story showing an old woman who lives in a rural area, without modern facilities such as electricity and plumbing. The story reminds the younger generation of the unconditional love and care that old people can give.
This film stars a humble and gentle old grandmother (Kim Eul-boon) and her rude and spoiled grandson Sang-woo (Yu Seung-ho). The story begins on a fine summers morning, when San-woo and his mother board a bus filled with villagers who annoy the city born child Sang-woo. Sang-woo, a seven year old urban boy is forced by his mother to live with his 78 years old mute, but not deaf, grandmother in a rural village while his mother looks for a new job after an unsuccessful business venture in Seoul.
Sang-woo arrives with his junk food and toys and has no intention of respecting his grandmother, instead he calls her a byungshin, or “retard”; probably due to his grandmothers bent over walking position as a result of osteoporosis. In the beginning, Sang-woo ignores his grandmother, not even wanting to look at her. Every morning, the old grandmother goes down the hill near the river-side to get clean water and washes her clothes. She also grows melons and sells it in the market.
One of the Grandmother’s friends is a young country boy who works very hard, and attempts to become friends to Sang-woo. Which the latter declines until the end, where he apologizes for making fun of him. The other is a young girl who Sang-Woo fell in love with, but is more into the country boy.
The old grandmother lives a simple and humble life, she cares for her old friends very much. One day, Sang-woo’s Game Boy runs-out of batteries and he asks his grandmother for money, Sang-woo does not understand that his grandmother is poor and has no money. Therefore, he teases her, in an intolerant manner by throwing away her shoes, breaking her vases, and drawing graffiti on her walls. Sang-woo tries to steal his grandma’s ornamental hairpin to trade for batteries for his Game Boy but was hit in the head by one of the villagers, who happens to be her friend. One day Sang-woo demands Kentucky Fried Chicken . His old grandmother only understand “chicken,” therefore she trudges out in the rain to buy a chicken from the market and retrieves a live one and prepares a homemade boiled version instead of fried chicken. When Sang-woo wakes up he sees the boiled chicken and gets angry, throwing the food away. Later in the night he finishes the food because he is hungry. The next morning, his grandmother becomes ill and Sang-woo has to serve her the remaining chicken and care for her.
Despite the handicaps faced by the old grandmother, the only thing she needs Sang-woo for is to run thread through her needles. She stitches the shoes and shares her earnings with a friend who ends their meeting with “Come by again before one of us dies.”
Sang-woo who is angry and confused by the unfamiliar environment, rejects her attempts to please him. But her unconditional love slowly touches his heart. One day, Sang-woo follows his grandmother to the market, where he sees how hard his grandmother persuades passers-by to buy vegetables. After a long day in the market she takes Sang-woo to a shop and buys him noodles and new shoes. When they are about to board the bus, Sang-woo asks his grandma to buy him Choco pie, and the old grandma decides to walk home after spending her bus fare for her grandson’s sweets.
Eventually Sang-woo begins to love his grandmother, he teaches her to write simple greeting cards, so she can send him letters. Finally Sang-woo goes back to living with his mother in Seoul and his grandmother continues to live alone in the thatched-roof house, but she now receives letters from her grandson.