Maundy Thursday is not your typical romantic film, and I would go as far as saying that it is more of a film about a deep emotional bond carved from shared past trauma. The female protagonist, Yu-jeong, is a suicide survivor who is seen as the black sheep of her deeply religious Catholic family. Her Catholic nun aunt persuades Yu-jeong to accompany her on her weekly visits to jail to provide hope to the inmates. Yu-jeong reluctantly agrees and meets the murderer Yeon-soo. Yeon-Soo led a troubled life, having been abandoned by his mother at a young age and joining the local crime circles. An attempt to salvage his newly-wed life and to come clean goes awry when he engages in one last operation. All blame lands on him and lands him a seat on death row. Yeon-su loses all faith in society and actually desires death. He even rouses up trouble within the prison in an effort to die quicker.
Though the two butt heads at first, they eventually share their tortured pasts, and tentative hopes for the future. Every Thursday, they meet and open but a bit more. They find a purpose in each other to keep living. Eventually, Yeon-su even meets the victim’s mother, a moment of heartbreaking forgiveness. Even Yu-jeong learns how to stand up for herself and push back against the rigidity of her religious household, and her uncaring mother. A mother who cared more about appearances than listening to her own daughter. But such blossoming is rudely cut short by reality, the inevitable fate that Yeon-su must meet.
- A wonderfully character-driven movie where we explore the tortured pasts of the main two characters. How such shared trauma can help two lost souls bond and help piece each other back together. To one who so desired death before and see the transformation to wanting to live again, is so heartwarming…and yet heartbreaking. And to Yeon-su who endured such emotional deprivation and is pulling through and connecting with others is an amazing feat.
- The injustice of the prison system is exposed here. It is tragic to see how hopeless Yeon-su’s situation is. The ending is brutal, where hope is offered and then taken away.
- Forgiveness is the key to salvation. Though sometimes one cannot make up for one’s misdeeds, forgiveness is the first step to peace with oneself.
- Prepare for tears and more tears. The ending is especially brutal. SPOILER: Finally finding the desire to live, to emotionally connect, Yeon-su’s salvation is cut short by death. Even the prison guard is unwilling to press the last button to end the man’s life. And the fact, if I remember correctly, he was mostly innocent with no time to prove it.
- SPOILER: The glass separating Yu-jeong and Yeon-su in the death chamber. The song he sang as he was being led to the chamber. Her name that he called before he died.
- Kang Dong-Won in another tragic story. Nuff said.