“An abrasively funny farce, filled with droll, observant details about Korean pop culture” – David Noh, FILM JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL
74-year-old Oh Mal-soon (Na Moon-hee) is pretty much the stereotypical Korean “ajumma”, or grandmother — a little pushy and definitely stern, her hair is perma-permed and looks like broccoli. She is ultimately a deeply loving person, but it doesn’t show from her strained relationship with daughter-in-law Ae-ja. Extremely proud of the son she raised on her own, she can’t help but think he married wrongly. When Ae-ja collapses from depression, Mal-soon realizes the weight she’s put on her family. She wanders around aimlessly one night, and ends up walking into a strange photo studio. A snapshot later, she comes out to learn that she has been magically transported into the body of her 20-year-old self. Seizing the opportunity to relive a youth she sacrificed in the name of her child, she renames herself Oh Doo-ri (after Audrey Hepburn) and sets out to explore a world of new possibilities. Meanwhile, her family thinks she’s fled home out of shame, and as she grows closer to her grandson Ji-ha (Jin Young), he invites her to join his heavy metal band.
Following 2011’s harrowing thriller SILENCED, Hwang Dong-hyuk shifts gears entirely, cementing his position as one of South Korea’s most talented and certainly most versatile filmmakers. With MISS GRANNY, he offers much more than a simple ajumma riff on the FREAKY FRIDAY formula. If the basic premise allows for a variety of highly absurd situations, making for one of the best, most pitch-perfect, laugh-out-loud comedies we’ve seen all year, MISS GRANNY’s central theme of youth regained carries much unexpected weight. Under Hwang’s direction, it also becomes the touching and incredibly heartfelt portrait of a woman who has sacrificed much for the ones she loves. If South Korean cinema is too often a male-dominated world, this is a delightful breath of fresh air, offering a powerful ode to motherhood and the women in our lives that teach and raise all of us. Steering the ship, Shim Eun-kyung is incredible as the young Oh-Doo-ri, managing to capture the mannerisms of old age, all the while offering a rare mix of emotional subtlety, next-level aegyo and near-slapstick comedic charm. Add a K-pop-infused subplot and a deeply emotional finale, and you’re in for a treat. The highest grossing South Korean film of 2014 as of May, MISS GRANNY is an instant classic, already being considered for a Chinese remake. Catch it here first, and make sure to bring your mom!
— Ariel Esteban Cayer