Dir. Seung-Jun Yi, USA/South Korea/Japan/Finland 2011, 87 mins
Cast: Young-Chan, Soon-Ho (as themselves)
Review by Carlie Newman
A very different kind of documentary, PLANET OF SNAIL shows South Korean deaf-blind Young-Chan and the love of his life, his “eyes and ears” and constant helper, Soon-Ho, his wife, who is very short in stature with a debilitating spinal problem. Young-Chan is the “snail” of the title as he has to move so slowly to identify objects around him, but together with his wife, manages life with humour and love.
Director Seung-Jun Yi details the minutiae of their daily life. Soon-Ho cooks meals for her husband, helps him to do his exercises by turning him around when he gets too near the wall and even accompanies him to his Hebrew classes and assists with the exam (we are never told just why Young-Chan is learning Hebrew!). There is a lovely scene where we see Soon-Ho standing on a stool doing the washing-up with her husband next to her. They share this task as they share everything else. Another noticeable scene is where the couple put up a new light bulb. It takes great effort for both of them as she has to try to show him where the light is and how to fix it but he has to climb up as she is too short. When the light works there is immense joy in a seemingly simple task successfully achieved.
Soon-Ho manages to converse with her husband by tapping out words on his fingers and he replies with his voice. He is able to speak as he was not born deaf and blind but became so following a childhood illness so he learnt to speak and also remembers what he saw before he lost all vision and hearing.
The film is sensitively made but the end part is not as interesting as the rest which deals with the life of the couple. The final part shows Young-Chan rehearsing and performing a play, that he has written, before an audience.
The couple realise that at some point Young-Chan must learn to be independent and we see how hard Soon-Ho finds it to put him on the bus as he leaves her to spend the day undergoing exercises in independent living. They are so pleased to be together again when he returns that the scene where they walk away from the bus communicating their sorrow at being parted and contentment at being back together is truly moving. This charming documentary is a beautifully made film showing humanity at its finest.