Fate helped bring them together, the family fought to keep them apart.
Lee Chang-dong‘s Oasis is another one of those remarkable Korean romance dramas that excel in its portrayal of triumph over difficult circumstances. Chang-dong is known for his poignant and emotional dramas that are brilliant character stories. His films possess humanistic qualities and especially when it concerns matters of the heart. This is one of those films. In this film, we have two people who are practically rendered powerless mostly due to their physical and mental limitations. OASIS (2002) is an amorous tale that involves two seemingly abandoned individuals who would otherwise be destined to a lifetime of isolation, if not for that one often forgotten happenstance, fate.
Jong-du (Kyung-gu Sol) is a societal misfit. A social reject. He’s fidgety and inappropriate. The guy is just not quite right in the head, and he was just released from prison for serving time for manslaughter–which wasn’t his crime to start with. He stumbles about the streets in Korea trying to find a way to contact his family. While he was in prison they conveniently changed homes–in case he was to ever to be released. He finds them eventually and haphazardly while back in police custody. Jong-du isn’t the most romantic by the looks of him–but beneath that awkward exterior, lies the heart of a true hero.
Gong-Ju (So-ri Moon) also a social isolate. She has cerebral palsy and is unable to leave her home on her own. Her brother and his pregnant wife used to live in the same apartment until a subsidy was approved for a better one. One more handicap efficient and without Gong-Ju. She’s only allowed to visit the new apartment when the social workers visit. After that, she is returned to live in their old apartment, with a neighbor checking in on her twice daily. The rest of the time she spent alone until one-day Jong-du shows up with a basket of fruit. Their initial meeting started off slow and tedious. Jong-du inappropriately fondles her and leaves. Days later, surprisingly, she phones and asks him to come and visit with her again.
The two of them hit it off, and soon Jong-du takes her out of her disheveled apartment, and into the busy streets of Korea to see the world as he sees it. They are happy, and whether or not they know it by now, are in love. But there is a problem–both families reject their relationship. How can two people already individuality shunned by society ever hope to find happiness when their own families object to their relationship? Of course, there are negative aspects of the film that weren’t copesetic–the exaggerated scenes where the families announced their disdain regarding the relationship. Partially due to a concern about who would care for these two people with special needs, and the brutal way Jong-du older brother condescends and beat him for being “not as smart” as the rest of them.
The superbly positive thing about the film, the believable acting performances by Kyung-gu Sol and So-ri Moon–both make this film that much more special as an inspiring transgressive story. There are moments in the film where Jong-du isn’t confined by her handicap and due to love and is able to see herself dance and communicate with Jong-du, just like normal people. It is in these moments that hit you dead and center, and if you don’t like the idea that two physically and mentally challenged people are in fact able to find love, well, that’s just your problem, isn’t it?