Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mission Sex Control (Jal Sarabose)

This is Not a Balloon

First of all, let's get our minds out of the gutter. The title already provided you a clue with the keyword here being "Control", meaning this is no free-wheeling "mission sex" comedy with expectations of copulation being put in the spotlight. Rather, this turns out to be educational (for a while) and comedic in playing on misconceptions, before turning the wheel to become an all out melodramatic movie.

Set in 1970s Korea, the government finds it worrying that the country will not be able to sustain itself should a population explosion not be brought under control (the keyword again). Similar to our 70s-80s concept of stopping at 2, the Korean government embarks on a nationwide drive to promote the use of contraception and birth control policies to keep its population growth in check, and finds that with most of the folks being rural ones without access to the mass media, they have to send their civil servants to the ground in an all out educational bid to win over hearts and minds.

Enter Ms Park (played by Kim Jeong-eun), who is assigned a village of her own to educate. Not being warmly received, she soon struggles to realize that it takes a lot more than just condoms and brochures. In rural areas, the villagers have traditional mindsets, what with ancestor piety, the necessity of boys to carry on the lineage (and therefore to try until you have a male heir, and why stop at one anyway), and of course, having more than enough hands to till the land. She wins few followers, but soon with the help of hardworking Suk-Gu (Lee Beom-soo, last seen in My Wife is a Gangster 3), she uses her powers to promote him to village chief, and hence, getting a boost to pushing the policy in place.

The comedy comes as expected, with education sessions gone awry with the hands on (literally) teaching on the usage of condoms, as well as birth control pills. Sometimes the movie comes across as a mouthpiece for complains, as we get to hear more grumblings from the villagers about their plight and challenges faced to conform to instructions. And before you know it, it goes on track for some terribly melodramatic moments, involving a suspect extra-marital affair, vasectomy for cash, love for family versus the get rich quick schemes of subscribing to family policies, and the likes. With an ensemble cast made up of the numerous villagers, there are ample opportunity for antics by the simple folks, and the villain (of sorts) to provide very vocal opposition, lies in the deposed village chief and his son, who is under pressure with his wife to produce a male heir.

Those who have seen Lee Beom-soo in action before, will know that this guy can do comedy with his comic timing, and his average looks (at least on screen) help to connect us with him. While stoic on the outside, he is one big softie with a big heart, ever looking for ways to enrich himself, not to spend on his own, but to provide for his family. Kim Jeong-eun on the other hand, looks very much the helpless civil servant who at first gets cowered by the difficulties in engaging the villagers, but grow from strength to strength as the story progressed. One thing I find it amazing though, is how her eyes can become deep wells to hold the massive amount of tears within, like a manga doll.

Mission Sex Control is not about sex, but the importance of birth control and contraception. It does get overly long in its delivery with plenty of subplots presented, so thank goodness it does have some comedy thrown in at least for the first half, even if it's not genuinely funny, to remind us that it shouldn't be taken so seriously, despite the message it got to preach.

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