Thursday, June 1, 2017

From Prince to Convict: New Trial

The first show I saw Kang Ha-Neul in was Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, a historical drama where he played one of the princes. When I saw the trailer for New Trial what grabbed my attention was how vastly different this role was from his character in Scarlet Heart: Ryeo. 
Mild spoilers below. 

Kang Ha-Neul in Scarlet Heart Ryeo
(August 2016)
Kang Ha-Neul in New Trial (February 2017)

New Trial is about a teenager Hyun-Woo who is falsely accused and forced to confess to a murder he didn't commit,  and then spends 10 years in prison. When he gets out, he is a hardened young man, who has to care for his blind mother. Since his release, the shame of being a convicted criminal hangs over his head. To make matters worse, if Hyun-Woo can't pay $ 170,000 dollars for indemnity,  he will go back to prison. At first, the lawyer, Lee Joon-Young, who takes Hyun-Woo's case does so to prove himself to a new law firm, hoping to raise his public image and get a job. As the movie progresses however, he sees Hyun-Woo as someone hurt by the very laws that are supposed to protect. 

"Don't mention justice and morality," the head of the firm says to the lawyer, when asking him why they should take Hyun Woo's case (much less ask for a re-trial after 10 years). Yet by the end of the movie, this is exactly why the lawyer continues fighting for Hyun Woo, despite everyone else telling him to give it up. As Joon-Young's heart changes, he becomes a Voice for the Voiceless. (Proverbs 31:8-9).

This is based on a true story. The real "Hyun Woo" was released on November 16, 2016. Today, he is a family man with two children.

There were several scenes in this movie that struck me deeply. The character's struggles are complex and real.  Parts of this film were difficult to watch. Hyun-Woo was only a teenager when he was tortured in his interrogation. This film is partly about finding the evidence to clear Hyun-Woo's name and legal drama. Yet, more importantly, I feel this film is about suffering, choices, and ultimately, redemption

"Let's meet again in college."
When Hyun-Woo takes a fellow employee to the train station, these are her last words to him. As the train pulls out of the station, the look on Hyun-Woo's face is crushing. He is hopeless.

How many other teenagers have grown up in the same sad circumstances? Hyun-Woo has lived his life in a tiny town, where no one leaves. Even without a criminal conviction, he is surrounded by peers involved in gangs. Getting his GED is a dream. How many other children's lives waste away in slums or orphanages? Like Hyun-Woo these children are waiting for someone to come along and give them a chance. Like Hyun-Woo, they have to decide what to do when the chance is given--but if Joon-Young had not come along, he would have been stuck for the rest of his life. 

"Have you every received someone's entire life savings?"
Joon-Young says this to the head of the law firm, who shakes his head no. Joon-Young smiles quietly to himself, recalling the moment Hyun-Woo handed him a folded envelope. It contained only a handful of bills, but it was the only money he had saved. He gave it to Joon-Young the day he accepted him as his lawyer.

This reminded me of the story of the widow's two coins (Mark 12: 41-44). While the pharisees gave money out of their excess, she gave all she had. As Hyun-Woo. begins to open up slowly, he wants to express his gratefulness to Joon-Young. He gives everything to his lawyer, but it is more than just money. It is the beginning of trust, after his circumstances and years in prison taught Hyun-Woo to trust no one, care for no one, but himself. 

Throughout the movie, Joon-Young comes to understand that for man to live, he doesn't need money. Rather, "To live like a man, we must clear his name."

"You are not a murderer."

As Joon-Young stands in front of Hyun-Woo and repeats these words, gently and emphatically, Hyun-Woo's face crumples. These are the words he has been longing to hear for ten years. 

This was moment in the film was raw and piercing. Hyun-Woo had a choice: to clear his name or succumb and become a murderer like everyone already believed he was. Because one person believed in him, Hyun-Woo was able to find redemption. It didn't erase everything that had happened. But now he had hope. 

What if we can be that one, the one person who believes, for someone else? 

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace. ~Ephesians 1:7

Photo Credit: To Owners

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