Film Review: The Vegetarian(Chaesikjuuija), 2010

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I was reading the book of the same title when I learned that a movie had been made last 2010. Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to watch the movie online. Thank God for the subtitles otherwise I won’t be able to understand this Korean film. It’s a long movie, almost 2 hours, and is quite boring for me. The movie remained loyal to the book except for beginning scene and the story which is now told from the sister’s perspective.

The film starts with Ji-Hye visiting her sister, Yong-Hye in a mental facility. She is filled with emotions as she looks at her bedridden and weak sister. Then the film goes back to how it all began when Yong-Hye decided to become a vegetarian because of a dream. This decision didn’t sit well with her husband and her family thus she was soon divorced by her husband. I don’t want to spoil you with the rest of the film so you can watch it and decide on your own whether you like it or not. But its’s definitely a weird film because it all started with vegetarianism.

Although I don’t think that this is all about vegetarianism. I don’t know how Koreans react to vegetarianism but you can see in the movie that they don’t like it. Meat is a symbol of prosperity and not eating one can be disrespectful. In the scene wherein Yong-Hye’s father forced her to eat meat, everyone didn’t mind him doing that and they treat her differently because of that. I’m not saying that this is applicable to all South Koreans though.

I love Korean food (like Kimchi!) and I’m always surprised how healthy their food is because it’s full of vegetables. The downside is that minced meat is also part of these vegetable recipes so you really don’t have a choice when it comes to eating Korean food. Except for the side dishes. The movie may probably be about that but I think there’s a bigger picture out of this such as the freedom of choice.

Why can’t Yong-Hye eat whatever she wants? Why is she not allowed not to eat meat? Why is she labelled as a person with mental incapabilities just because of her decision?

These are some queries that I’d ask myself as the movie went on yet there’s no definite answer. All I can surmise is that being different is difficult in South Korea. And I’d still become a vegetarian (if I can) without losing my mind.

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