My Way (aka Mai Wei) review by Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
A movie that begins with the currently popular themes of sport, marathons and Olympians, My Way quickly descends into a movie about war, brotherhood and a painful rivalry during the Japanese occupation of Korea in World War II.
The movie begins as a Japanese landowners son and the young Korean who works on his father’s farm discover a mutual love of running and find themselves participating in many of the same marathons and races; their rivalry reaches a head when, at the Tokyo Olympics the wrong man is declared winner and a riot breaks out. In the aftermath of the riot all the Korean protestors are forced to join the Japanese Military just as the country commences its part in the Second World War and, more specifically, battles against the Soviet Union. As a lowly solider our Korean farm worker, Joon-shik, finds himself taking orders from his Japanese racing rival, Tatsuo, whose contempt for the other tempts him to abuse the power of his station.
Insert various battle sequences, all played out with an inspiring use of set, landscape, costuming and action and all the typical gruesome acts of warfare including POW camps and torture and eventually you find yourself, two main characters still in tow, at Normandy on D-Day.
Overall My Way definitely offers an interesting story, despite the rather unexpected change of direction after the first act, but I would hardly call this an easy film to watch. Though the characters are engaging and the narrative full of personal and emotional motivation there was something about this movie that dragged. Possibly it was the way in which the battle sequences seem to rush past, despite the pre-production time and money that was clearly spent, you can’t help but feel as though the scenes themselves are little more than a necessary nuisance to the director, rather than a further opportunity to explore the realities of human instinct and behaviour. This fact wasn’t helped by the sheer length of the film itself, at two and a half hours this movie requires a lot of dedication and concentration and for me I just didn’t feel as though it was entirely worth it.
Ultimately the handling of the story, the performances and the slow and intimate character development ought to have added up to a veritable masterpiece of the genre, but I could not help but feel that editing process left a few of the wrong scenes in, whilst abandoning others on the cutting room floor. There is nothing more disappointing than the feeling that something could have been better.