It’s rare that a film that is one of the best movies to come out in the year flies this low under the radar. If you like the film ‘Good Will Hunting’ but wish that the film took place during the South Korean-North Korean conflict, then you may like the film “In Our Prime”.
The film stars Dong-hwi Kim playing the role of Han Ji-Woo. Ji-woo is a student at a prestigious high school that prepares kids for college. Ji-woo has pretty decent marks except for one key area, Math. His marks are so poor that if he doesn’t improve them, he’ll risk being expelled from the school. Ji-woo comes from a poor household raised by a single mother after his father died years ago, the last thing he wants to do is bring shame and hardship to his family’s name but he doesn’t have the ability to keep up with the rest of the class.
One day, he runs into the school security guard (Choi Min-sik), who was a defector from North Korea. The students of the school label him “commie officer” (proving that even South Koreans accept the fact that North Korea is communist unlike some American progressives) and most of them keep their distance from him in order to stay out of trouble. After getting caught trying to sneak food into the campus, Ji-woo discovers that the officer is a mathematical genius. After being reluctant, the officer teaches Ji-woo to understand how to tackle and question the thesis of math. Everything goes well until Ji-woo discovers that the teacher has one major secret, a secret that could change their entire relationship.
“In Our Prime” is a wonderful character study that looks at two separate characters going on the same road. The film focuses on the relationship between Han Ji-Woo and Lee Hak-Sung. Ji-Woo is a capable teen who is in desperate need of guidance and a father figure in which Hak-Sung becomes the missing piece to the puzzle.
Hak-Sung’s story revolves around a man doing anything possible to escape his past. Being a man who challenged an oppressive communist system in North Korea, Hak-Sung lost everything that was important to him, giving up on life outside of being a security guard.
Both characters find each other at a time when they need each other the most. Relationships, friendships, and Redemption drive the story here. The film opens a bit cold as it focuses more on building up the backstory of these characters so that when more is revealed down the line audiences understand what’s happening. The film’s third act can be a little heavy-handed as it would have been better served cutting out 10 to 15 minutes of filler.
The impressive thing about “In Our Prime” is how it blends the math lessons into life lessons, the concept of memorizing formulas to solving problems is used to bring home the message of questioning everything even if it means challenging the status quo.
If you’re a fan of character-based dramas, there is no reason you won’t love “In Our Prime” unless the concept of doing complicated math problems without a Texas Instruments calculator triggers you.