Flash Review: My Brilliant Life [Movie]

Let the record show that:

1. I generally don’t stumble on many k-movies that truly resonate with me, thanks to their shorter running times, and also quite possibly, thanks to my drama-attuned sensibilities. What can I say? I don’t like to feel rushed when connecting with characters on my screen. 😉

2. This particularly holds true for movies that run like highlight reels, because I find it particularly hard to connect with a highlight reel.

3. I don’t seek out tearjerkers and if I know in advance a movie is going to make me cry, I approach with deep caution, if I approach at all.

Despite all of this, though, I love – like, really, unreservedly love – My Brilliant Life.

Highlight reel, tears and all, this movie moved me deeply, and I would watch this again in a heartbeat.

Throughout this movie, all of our main characters radiate a warmth, strength and resilience that one can’t help but admire.

Our characters are basically just regular folks living their lives, when life serves up not one, but several, lemons. Not only does our main couple get bewilderedly pregnant at age 17, their son is born with Progeria, a rare genetic defect that causes him to age at a highly accelerated rate.

This is the story of not just how these regular folks make lemonade out of those lemons, but how they defiantly face life, to proudly make that lemonade the best, darned, kickass, dignified lemonade anyone has ever seen, thankyouverymuch.

Both Kang Dong Won and Song Hye Kyo are pitch-perfect and wonderful as Dae Soo and Mi Ra, our hapless teenage couple that quickly finds themselves facing parenthood.

Kudos to both actors – and PD-nim as well, and the makeup folks, and the camera folks, too – for bringing us flashbacks of their teenage cluelessness that are not only refreshingly convincing, but also very amusing.

One of my favorite things in the show, is the way both Dae Soo and Mi Ra refuse to allow their son Ah Reum (Jo Sung Mok) to feel ashamed of being different from other kids.

I love the matter-of-fact way they go about their lives, dealing with any and all Progeria issues that come up, with a wonderful mix of pragmatic levelheadedness and lots of love.


I particularly love this little scene, where Ah Reum feels embarrassed by people’s stares as he walks down the street with Mom, and asks Mom if she doesn’t feel embarrassed too.

I just love how Mom stops right there on the street to give him a pep talk, telling him that people look at him coz he’s handsome like a celebrity with his sunglasses on, that he’s got nothing to be ashamed of, and that he’s doing a great job as a kid with a medical condition.

In her trademark matter-of-fact, don’t-even-think-about-arguing-with-me way, Mom tells Ah Reum, “Your uncle cried like a baby after his circumcision, when he was your age. But you went through treatments that are far worse… Not everyone can do that. You’re doing something incredible. So, walk proud and let them stare, got it?”

That kind of “I simply won’t let you be ashamed of yourself” tough love is golden, and was one of my favorite things in the show.


Of course, there are poignant moments too, and Dae Soo and Mi Ra can’t help but despair in private over their son’s degenerating condition.

Both Kang Dong Won and Song Hye Kyo deliver masterfully, imbuing even the brightest moments in the show, with an almost imperceptible underlying sadness that is full of pathos, and the more melancholic scenes with a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking sorrow.

They gave me chills, with their wonderful portrayal of parents simply doing the best they can for their child, with as much courage as they can humanly muster.

The breakout star of this show, for me, though, is Jo Sung Mok, who plays Ah Reum with a startlingly deep sense of old-soul measuredness, wisdom and resilience.

Whenever he appeared on my screen, I could feel just how deep he was reaching into his soul, to be strong for his parents; to make the most out of his life, not only for their sakes, but also for his own.

It floors me that this is literally Jo Sung Mok’s debut. His debut!

I mean, if he’s delivering so much emotional resonance at age 14, what kind of powerhouse will he be in another ten years? My brain. It struggles to compute.

But you get the idea. Jo Sung Mok is amazing, and believable, and engaging, and.. have I mentioned he’s amazing?

While any scene with Ah Reum in it tugged at my heartstrings, there are several highlights that must be mentioned.

1. I loved all of his scenes with his bestie, Grandpa Jang (Baek Il Sub).

Despite the outward incongruence of a tiny kid and an old gramps sharing old-man talk together, this friendship, with all its outer gruffness, really moved me.

Sure, they were completely different in age and size, but they both understood the pains of aging, and they comforted each other, each in their unique, old-man, old-soul ways.

2. I loved all of Ah Reum’s scenes with Mom.

Even though both Mom and Dad love Ah Reum dearly, it’s Mom who dispenses all the gentle tenderness that Ah Reum needs. And it’s with Mom that Ah Reum has his deepest conversations; about love, about the future, about life.

Their scenes warmed my heart to overflowing, and then some. Sob.

3. I loved Ah Reum’s scenes with Dad.

With Dad pretty much being an overgrown kid himself, the dynamic between Ah Reum and Dad is completely different from that between Ah Reum and Mom.

I love that Dad interacts with Ah Reum almost like a playmate would, and even shares his toys. In a world where Ah Reum lacks friends his own age, I felt that Dad filling that role meant a lot to him.

Even more than that, though, I love how darn proud Dad is, of his son.

Their exchanges are simple, but so full of true emotion.


A great example of this, is when, in the later stretch of the movie, Dad and Ah Reum go star-gazing together.

Quietly, as they lie down looking up at the night sky, Ah Reum says to Dad, “I feel so happy being here with you, watching the stars. I’m especially happy that you’re my father.”

And Dad responds in his simple, forthright way, “Me too. I’m so happy you’re my son. Good kids like you should never be sick.”

So understated, but still so sweet. Love.



In the end, while the movie’s message isn’t ground-breakingly new, it delivers that message with so much heart and so much quiet, dignified determination, that it hits home in a deeply profound way.

Indeed, it truly isn’t about how long you live, but how well you live.

Thank you for reminding us of that timeless truth, Mom, Dad and Ah Reum. And thank you, too, for now making us all want to hug our families. *tear*


Deeply heartwarming, soul-wrenchingly moving, and completely inspiring.




18 thoughts on “Flash Review: My Brilliant Life [Movie]

  1. Snow Flower

    I stumbled across Vanishing Time:The Boy Who Returned on Netflix and was very impressed by Kang Dong Won. I looked up some of his other movies and found My Brilliant Life. Such a masterpiece!

    1. kfangurl

      This movie is SO excellent, isn’t it?? 😀 I’m so glad you decided to watch it, Snow Flower! 😀 This one really punched me in the gut, in the best possible way. <3

  2. MC

    Oh. I just finished this show. I’m a mess. I was a wreck for the last hour or so and I could. not. stop. sobbing. Funnily enough I watched it in two parts just like you did – I started it on Sun night but I got to about 45mins + but wasn’t feeling it so I stopped it, read about the show and decided to give it up. But yet something in me kept bugging me to come back and finish it and I’m so, so, so glad I did. Yesterday I found it slow going and highlight-reel-ish, as you said, and it just felt so depressing for me. But today, I realised how the front half was set up (beautifully done) so that when they made their point in the later half, we as the viewers would be wrecked and feeling all the feelzzzz.

    This show was so simply but beautifully done. The actors were amazing. What you said about the kid actor I fully concur. And surprisingly, for such a huge star, I absolutely forgot it was Song Hye Kyo – I just saw her as Ahreum’s mom and Kang Dong Won as Ahreum’s dad. The music was so beautiful – soaring, haunting, quiet when it needed to be. The silences were all so effectively used too. Every scene towards the end was heartbreaking and I can’t talk about all of them, but I really loved how Ahreum’s dad reconciled with his own estranged father, it was beautifully done.

    I can’t speak very coherently about this show cos everything about it was so good. From being the person who was a bit bored/ found it draggy at the beginning, I was dreading every minute as it inched closer to the end, wishing the show wouldn’t end cos I wasn’t ready to let Ahreum go. 🙁 Heartbreak. But also, my heart is so full. Thanks so much for recommending me this show. I’m so glad I finished it. I would watch it again in a heartbeat too. Just, thank you for convincing me to watch this beautiful gem of a show that I would have otherwise missed!!

    1. kfangurl

      I’m so, so glad that you gave this movie a second chance, MC! It really is so special and beautiful, isn’t it? ❤😭 This movie made me cry too, it just hit so hard, in the heart. And the actors all gave such heartfelt performances, it was a privilege to share their world. <3 I think that's such a great compliment to Song Hye Kyo, that you stopped seeing her, and only saw Ah Reum's mom. I feel like that's one of the highest compliments one could give an actor, and in this case, I completely agree with you. Ordinarily, I feel like Song Hye Kyo can be a little flat as an actress, but here, she's wonderful and so very, very good. 🤩

      Indeed, this is one of those watch experiences that leaves your heart broken but full.. It's such a special movie. ❤😭 Thanks for allowing me to persuade you to give this one a chance, my dear. 😘😘

      1. MC

        Yes! what a beautiful show. One I’ll definitely come back to one day. And yes Song Hye Kyo is not the best of actresses but she was wonderful here 🙂 Thanks once again and hope you’re doing good!

        1. kfangurl

          Yes, this one is worth coming back to indeed! I’m doing well, considering the circumstances. I hope you are well, dear MC. Do take care and stay safe! <3

  3. Janey

    I watched this movie today and I cried like a baby. I never cry like a baby, but this movie is so heart-warming and nice and I just couldn’t stop myself from bawling over the tender scenes. So it’s a pleasant surprise to see that you reviewed it! 🙂 I agree with everything you’ve written. I love how Ah-Reum has different dynamics with the people surrounding him. I also love how each one felt so genuine.

    I adore Song Hye-Gyo in this movie, probably my favorite role of hers! Also, Kang Dong-Won is unrecognizable in terms of character! I’m so used to seeing him all ready to kick butt, but he’s so adorkable and funny in this one.

    I look forward to seeing more of Jo Sung-Mok, who is so awesome as Ah-Reum. I had my mind blown when I saw him without the old man face! It’s so hard to believe that he’s just a kid. So so so amazing.

    Thank you for this review, kfangurl! 🙂

    1. kfangurl

      I’m so glad you loved this movie too, Janey!! 😀 Isn’t it one of the best, like seriously?? Tender is the word. There is pathos, yes, but underlining everything there is a tenderness and resilience that is just so incredibly moving. I cried too, watching this. And I was on a flight, too – but that didn’t keep the tears from falling unbidden. Just, so deep-reaching and so good.

      This might also be my fave role of Song Hye Gyo’s – she’s so awesome in this! So natural, so strong, and yet, still vulnerable. LOVE. I haven’t seen Kang Dong Won in other stuff, but kickass sounds like my kinda guy, so I might just need to see more of his work! And OMG Jo Sung Mok. Scene stealer, show stealer, heart stealer. He’s just so amazing as Ah Reum. I was shocked to realize he’s only 14! Usually child stars tend to be small for their age, so that they can manage the emotional depth required, and still look the part. But he’s only 14! I LOVED HIM, and I cannot wait to see what else he does!

        1. kfangurl

          Oh! I had no idea that Kang Dong Won holds the #2 spot in your fangirl heart!! In fact, with Jang Hyuk occupying such a large #1 spot, I simply thought there wasn’t any more room for any others! XD KDW’s great in My Brilliant Life – I hope you love the movie as much as I did!! ^^

          1. Drama Fan

            There’s some room! Not a lot but yeah, that’s why No 2 gets changed often :p Kang Dong Won is impressive in his versatility. I have only watched a few movies of him that I found available but he is so good and different in each one. I’m not a fan a k-movies as much as k-drama either but I’ve liked some a lot.

            1. kfangurl

              Switching up #2 often is a very clever way to use the limited space in your fangirl heart!! XD I’ve only seen KDW in My Brilliant Life, actually, since I’m not much into k-movies usually. Which are some of his movies that you’d recommend? 🙂

  4. Lady G.

    Woos, this review already brought tears to my eyes. I will certainly add it to my list. Very well written. The cast looks like they worked exceptionally well together just by the lovely photos.

    1. kfangurl

      Thanks my dear, I’m glad you enjoyed this review enough to add this show to your list! You know I don’t love many k-movies, so the fact that I love this one so unreservedly is a Big Deal. 😉

      Funny thing. I actually first watched this on a flight to HK, and didn’t manage to finish before landing. Fast forward to my next flight to HK several weeks later, when I FF-ed my way to where I’d stopped, which was on the cusp of an emotional scene. Would you believe that I promptly started tearing up, despite losing several weeks in between? The emotional beats land that well, in this show. A must-watch, I say!!

  5. snow

    This film reminds me of Indian movie ‘Paa’ (2009) which was also based on Progeria. It also handled the subject in a natural, witty manner, staying away from pity…and was yet so poignant. One of the greatest Indian actors, Amitabh Bachchan played the child’s role at the age of 68…and he is simply AMAZING! It’s funny that his real life son (who is also an actor) played the role of his father! I laughed and cried in the movie.

    1. kfangurl

      Oh, how interesting, that there’s a similarly-themed Indian movie! 🙂 Sounds like a good movie too. It’s funny that father and son swopped roles for it.. I think My Brilliant Life handled that aspect differently, since they got a child actor to play the child. If you enjoyed Paa, you would probably enjoy this one too, snow! 🙂


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