'A Song for My Dear' wins hearts and recognition with frank look at aging

Actor Sun Dong-hyuk, right, and actor Jung Ah-mi, left, play an elderly couple in ″A Song for My Dear″ [SOONSU FILM]

"A Song for My Dear" may seem like another cliche story about an old married couple but what has won it 51 awards from all over the world is the idea of persevering through difficulties, according to the cast.

Actor Sun Dong-hyuk and Jung Ah-mi play the elderly couple in the film, directed by Lee Chang-yeol. The film touches on the concerns of life and death that deepen with age — Yeon-hee, played by Jung, is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s just as her husband Dong-hyuk, played by Sun, settles into a provincial town after a lifetime as a gugak, or traditional folk song, singer. Yeon-hee and Dong-hyuk expect a peaceful life together after Dong-hyuk's retirement, but the tragedy that strikes leads them into an abyss.

From left, director Lee Chang-yeol, actors Sun Dong-hyuk, Jung Ah-mi and Jang Tae-hoon speak during a press conference for ″A Song for My Dear″ at CGV Yongsan branch in Yongsan District, central Seoul, on Feb. 14 [SOONSU FILM]

“This is a story that can be expanded into social issues rather than just an individual or familial problem,” said Sun during the press conference on Feb. 17. “'A Song for My Dear’ is a work that discusses realistic aspects of life, death, and aging.”

A tender and heartfelt love story about a husband whose life collapses when his wife of 30 years becomes terminally ill and starts losing grasp of who she is due to Alzheimer’s, “A Song for My Dear” was based upon director Lee’s own philosophy of life, according to the director.

“Everyone has their own way of approaching life,” said Lee. “As I get older, I keep finding myself thinking about how to not just live well but also die well. I watched a lot of close friends become ill and struggle with old age, and I thought to myself, ‘What kind of life would I end up having if I also fell ill?’ And that was the inspiration for this story.”

As Lee researched aging and talked to many of those who fell ill in their old age and their families, he was shocked and moved at the same time.

Main poster for ″A Song for My Dear″ [SOONSU FILM]

“While writing the script, I interviewed many families of patients and I was astonished by the unimaginably hard life they led,” said Lee. “I think in this current direction of an aging society that Korea faces, problems regarding aging and diseases such as Alzheimer’s are not just about those individuals. It is a social phenomenon and needs to be looked at as such.”

Regarding the plethora of awards that “A Song for My Dear” has received from various overseas film festivals including the 19th Accolades Global Film Merit Awards and the Vancouver International Independent Film Awards, the main cast and director expressed gratitude and talked about how the film must have resonated with global audiences.

A scene from ″A Song for My Dear″ [SOONSU FILM]

“The themes of life, death, aging and family are universal,” said director Lee. “It transcends divides, whether in the East or West. So that is why ‘A Song for My Dear’ seems to have resonated with so many audiences. We hope that through our film we can all discuss these themes further.”

“A Song for My Dear” opens in Korean theaters on March 8.