If you look at the posters for Oasis, you will see a quote calling it a “Brave Film”. The fact that it can be considered such an unconventional and ‘Brave’ piece of work only helps reinforce one of its major themes. Love is supposed to be the one thing everybody wants in life, something that is deserved by everyone regardless of their decisions, or the path they decide to follow. However in our society love is not always excepted if it falls outside the general picturesque. Lee Chang-dong’s film touches such themes with a bold hand by telling a love story shared by a mentally unstable ex-convict, and a young woman suffering from cerebral palsy. It’s a story about two people whose personal disabilities have left them simply swept aside from society, and family. Only to be brought to one another through fate and seeing beyond each others physical differences they find what can easily be called true love.
Jong-du (Sol Kyung-gu) has just been released from prison after serving a two and a half year sentence for vehicular manslaughter. Left wondering the streets in bitter winter cold, only wearing summer attire (he was arrested in summer) he decides to pay his respects to the family of the man whose death he went to prison for, in fact despite his mental disabilities Jong-du is a sincerely kind human being. This is made quite evident when certain details of his arrest are made clear later on. When he finally finds the apartment of the deceased’s family, he arrives to discover the son and his wife moving out, leaving their mentally disabled sister Gong-ju (Moon So-ri) behind to be fed and looked after by the neighbors.
Jong-du finds himself attracted to this poor woman who is severely suffering from Cerebral Palsy. (Cerebral Palsy is a condition which refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination). This will eventually lead to the film’s most disturbing and maybe for some unwatchable scene, which helps reinforce the fact that despite his kind means, Jong-du does have uncontrollable issues. Upon a later and seeming innocent visit to Gong-ju’s home, Jong-du’s compulsion gets the better of him. Despite this rather disturbing event, she is able to see past his inhibitions and later invites him back again. From here and through frequent visits the two develop a real love for one another. Finally in a world of constant rejection, each of them has found someone who truly cares for them. The scenes between the two are where the film really shows its emotional honesty. In a few brief, but beautiful moments we are invited inside Gong Ju’s mind, as she is suddenly able to arise from her disability perfectly healthy and have the chance to share in a sweet moment with Jong-du. These moments truly bring a smile to your face, but at the same time break your heart as you know this is all happening in her mind, and she is still confined to only the ability to make brief conversation. At the same time it shows that beyond her physical condition she can still think and feel like anyone else.
The performances from our main actors are nothing short of spectacular! Moon So-ri is absolutely brilliant at portraying her characters awkwardness and pain without taking the performance too over the top. Sol Kyung-gu also plays Jong-du in a way that keeps you on his side regardless of his strange personality and poor decisions.
Oasis is indeed a very though provoking film that will garner different reactions from different people. It draws a line between what is accepted by society, and what personal desires might be felt between two people.