Initially, I would have thought that Secret Sunshine had something critical to say of religion (and here being Christianity), and wondered if it would be something of a rant against the ills of blind faith, or the manipulative power of those who are supposedly holier than thou. Surprisingly, it was none of the sort and was largely non-judgemental, putting in place events as a matter of fact, and allowing the audience to draw their own judgement and conclusion.
And I can't help but to chuckle at the role of Song Kang-ho, a man who's taken a liking for widower Shin-ae (Jeong Do-yeon), and starts going to church when she does. The reasons for church going are many I suppose, either to find inner peace, to seek help, being afraid of eternal damnation in the fires of Hell, to reaffirm faith, or even things like wanting to get married in a church, or to skirt chase (I kid you not). But to each his own reasons for turning up in church every Sunday and participating in prayer groups for fellowship, what is indeed dangerous, is when the underlying ulterior motives, do not get satisfied, and that's when frustration sets in. Or when you discover how hypocritical man can be, portraying one face inside the house of God, and displaying yet another outside.
Shin-ae and her son Jun moves to the town of Miryang, which is the birthplace of her deceased husband. Wanting to start life anew, she opens up a piano shop to give lessons, though in discovering her new found freedom and in a moment's lack of good judgement, has another tragedy befall her. And that takes one hour to get to. Secret Sunshine really took its time to get to this point, where things then begin to get slightly more interesting with Shin-ae now taking to embracing religion to deal with and accept her current state, reveling in the comfort that religion, and fellow believers, can offer.
What began as crying out for sympathy turns into acceptance and belief that religion offers that silver bullet to solve the ills of all mankind, and sometimes you wonder if it's because of your personal myopic view of what the almighty is doing for you, that you begin to adopt a somewhat selfish opinion that everything's good going your way, and in Shin-ae's case, her magnanimous attitude in wanting to forgive others who had trespassed against her, forgetting something very fundamental that it the feeling can cut both ways too.
The last act is probably the most fun of the lot as it says plenty, where most of us can identify with - why me, and why not someone else, as we rage against our faith and start questioning, unfortunately, with no hard and fast answers available. It is then either we fall by the wayside, or continue with destructive deeds so rebelliously. But somehow the plug gets carefully pulled in Secret Sunshine so as not to offend, and what could have been an ugly character mouthpiece, got muted.
If you bite into the hype this movie is generating, then perhaps you'll realize only Jeong Do-yeon's excellent portrayal is worth mentioning, as she totally owns her role as the widow Shin-ae who is probably the most unluckiest person on Earth in having to deal with that many tragedies over a short period of time, and if you look at it carefully, most of which are of her own doing. Watching her transformation, is worth the ticket price, and despite having my personal favourite Korean actor Song Kang-ho in the movie, this is something he just breezed right through.