By Debbie Elicken

Hope (2013) is a South Korean subtitled film about a sweet eight-year-old girl, who was brutalized, raped, and left for dead on her way to school one morning. It was directed by Lee Joon-ik and written by Jo Joong-hoon and Kim Ji-hye. What may be even more disturbing about the plot line is that it is based on the true 2008 story of Nayoung Case.

Im So-won (Lee Re) was on her way to school. She had taken a new route, upon the suggestion of her mother Kim Mi-hee (Uhm Ji-won) so she could get there faster and not be late. That’s when she was accosted by an older and drunken man.

Faced with living the rest of her life with a colostomy bag, Im So-won was in critical condition and extremely fragile. She was wary of men as a result of her trauma, even her father Im Dong-hoon (Sol Kyung-gu), who was heartbroken. In order to continue to engage with her, he dressed up like her favorite cartoon character, but would only try to let her see him.

Throughout the process of the hospital stay and the “bad man’s” trial, the father’s workmates, the mother’s friends, and the young girl’s schoolmates all stepped up for both moral and financial support.

The movie is about how hope can rise through even the most heinous of times. It shows how a little girl’s personal trauma can answer her biggest question: Why was I born? It turned out she was the conduit to bring people together.

Hope offers a powerful portrayal of how a family might react to such a tragedy. The mother is distraught and ridden with guilt, who at first, refuses to accept help or the situation of her daughter. Meanwhile the father stays calm and accepts the responsibility for shouldering the bulk of the burden, even if if estranges him from his family, in order to help his daughter heal and find her future.

The movie was well directed and the brutality of the assault and the injuries are carefully edited so that it doesn’t sensationalize the experience this little girl and her family endured. It is just one of the many reasons it deserves five out of five stars.

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