Awarded and nominated for various awards worldwide, My Dictator is an inspiring, eye-opening and commendable piece of art by Director Lee Haejun. Exploring the bond and emotions of a father and son, My Dictator is a beautifully heartbreaking representation of family, love and dreams.

Dedicated to fathers all over the world, Director Lee Haejun started the production of My Dictator with the curiosity about his father’s youth and way of life. My Dictator is inspired by Lee’s relationship with his dictator-like father who is awkward at communicating his affection. With the intention to reconcile with his father and shows his appreciation, Lee speaks of uncomfortable things and explores various emotions that foster and even break the bond between a father and son in this film. As if to support Lee’s intention, the screening of this family drama in KOFFIA this year is also in line with Father’s Day.

Upon hearing the title, reading the synopsis and watching the trailer, we know this film is a promising one. It is heartwarming and heartbreaking especially after factoring in the separation of North and South Korea after the war period. As the recent news of reunions of war-divided families remind us viewers the possibility, realness and significance of the matter, it is easy to become sympathetic towards what Kim Sunggeun and his son Taesik went through.

However, there are a few things we did not expect. First is the comical nature of the film. We were ready to cry our hearts out only to be surprised by the lighthearted and comical storyline. It is refreshing and fun to watch. Second is the exploration of emotions and story of an actor. While there has been numerous stories exploring actors’ point of view, there haven’t been many that focus on their emotional struggles. Managing to find the balance of the two roles without straying too far from the main objective, we find Lee’s effort commendable.

Also, mixing an in-depth exploration of emotions with substantial and desolate narrative is certainly challenging but Lee has done a tremendous job to keep it light and digestible for everyone through comical script, quirky soundscape and camera angles, bright and beautiful cinematography. We love it! Especially the ironically beautiful representation of Lee’s dream-like mind.

The film does not only forward as the mood flows up and down from comical to serious, and keeping it in balance. It also maintains its balance by changing the story narration and point of view from Kim Sunggeun’s to his son Taesik’s right when we started doubting Kim’s mind and credibility. Furthermore, it successfully keeps its steady flow and generates more empathy from viewers when doing so. It is rare and refreshing to see such combinations, we are glad that everything flows well and is so well-blended.

What truly win our heart is the realness and simplicity of story. There is nothing overly dramatic or idealistic turn of events that somehow leads to an elaborately happy ending. Life goes on. That’s it.

The film does not present us with solutions or what so ever that could help put our mind at ease. In fact, it makes us think and leaves us with a heavy heart, feeling a little bit regretful of what happened. My Dictator shows us that we often turn our hurt into rage and distress ourselves (and in most cases, our loved ones) further in the process. It helps us appreciate the beauty of life.

All in all, My Dictator is an elaborate film focusing on a father’s emotions and struggles. It is a drama to be enjoyed by people of all ages revolving around family, love, dreams, passion, regrets and choices in life. Reminding us not to take our loved ones for granted and not be overly self-critical, My Dictator conveys a beautiful and encouraging story of a father and his son.

Review score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Running Time: 128 minutes (w/English subtitles)

This review was originally published during KOFFIA 2015.