Hwayi (화이)

Hwayi

The movie Hwayi tells the dark tale of revenge by young boy who was raised by criminal fathers, but later finds out his true origins. After a botched ransoming event, five violent criminals called The Daybreakers decide to raise the child they had kidnapped. They named him, Hwayi, which is also the name of a species of Chinese Juniper under which he was originally buried. Being a bright young man, Hwayi grew up in this unique family with five fathers and woman that becomes his mother. Under their tutelage, he learns a number of skills such as sharpshooting, fighting, driving, etc, that could be useful in their line of trade. Though he calls all the others “dad”, he calls the leader, Suk-Tae, “father”. Even though he grows up under such dark influences, his softness is still there. While the “intellectual” father hopes that Hwayi will be kept pure and wants to send him to a formal school for art, Suk-Tae has other plans.

Ever since Hwayi was a child, he had been afraid of the “monster” that lurks whenever he is alone. In a drastic act, Suk-Tae hopes to eliminate the monster by forcing him to participate in one of their operations and kill. Through this operation, Hwayi finds out about his past and is devastated. In his despair, he tries to protect the one thing closest to him and decides that he needs to take revenge against the fathers who had wronged him. Massive amounts of blood is shed as each of his fathers die, until it comes to a head with Suk-Tae. With Suk-Tae, he has always had a love-hate relationship, loving the man as a father, but fearing him as well. Hwayi wants to rid himself of the “monster” he always sees, but is the cost too high? Will he become the monster he had feared?

Reflections:

  1. One of my favorite controversies, are monsters made or born? Nature vs. nurture. Although Hwayi was raised by such violent fathers, he had not lost his humanity. He still cared and loved even though his fathers did not treat life as preciously. Yet when do the influences become too strong? Is it inevitable that he will be overpowered and become closer to being like them?
  2. The monster represents all the dark influences Hwayi feels in his life. He is not blind to his fathers’ line of trade and knows that it is inevitable that he may be asked to the same. Yet, he can’t seem to bring himself to leave the family either. The monster that he always fears dogged his steps, but he was afraid of letting it consume him. Yet, Suk-tae allowed his to consume him. The interesting thing is that both were freed from seeing the monster after they had killed. Did they swallow the monster or has it consumed them?
  3. The five influences in his life: the feared and respected father, the intellectual, the cool dad, the silly one, the one with a few bolts loose. I liked seeing how his relationship is with each one.
  4. The female characters in here are weak. We have the two suffering “mother” characters, the one under Suk-Tae’s thumb and his real mother who waited her whole life. The teen is the only one who brings a bit of warmth.
  5. Did Suk-Tae really love his son, or is he too far gone? In his own way, Suk-Tae wants to help Hwayi get rid of his “monster”. He only knows one method, the one he used, the bloody way. He adores Hwayi and sees the boy as himself in the younger days. However, he will flip to the extreme and almost kill his “son” to teach him.
  6. Yeo Jin Goo’s performance in this movie is brilliant. At such a young age, he is able to hold his own against the more seasoned men. His despair, rage, and sweetness is palpable. A truly stunning piece.
  7. Warning: Gore.Gore.Gore.
  8. Stay for the end credit scene!

-phoenix

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