We all know how Hollywood has a soft-spot for actors who portray mentally or physically disabled characters and their sympathy usually translates into countless praise and even awards come Oscar time. There isn’t any doubt in my mind that if Chang-Dong Lee’s Oasis had a wider American distribution around the time of its release, the lead actress So-ri Moon would have been nominated for an Oscar. She did go on to win several awards at various film festivals for her performance so at least somebody out their thought it was praiseworthy.
Moon plays a young woman with cerebral palsy and loses herself completely in the role you’d think she actually suffered from this crippling disease. She must have spent plenty of time researching the part in order to prepare for such a demanding task. Her behavioral patterns are spot on including all of those disjointed muscle spasms where the legs and arms become stiff and awkwardly contracted. To quote Woody Allen from his film Annie Hall: “I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That's the two categories. The horrible are like, I don't know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don't know how they get through life. It's amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So you should be thankful that you're miserable, because that's very lucky, to be miserable.” That pretty much sums up my feelings towards her character.
It’s a shame that the actual film doesn’t do Moon’s performance justice. It’s overlong with questionable intentions on the part of the director and a last act that completely falls apart in its absurdity. Personally, I felt Lee went overboard by treating his protagonist in the most cruel ways possible as a means of drawing sympathy from the audience when she really didn’t require it because anyone with a little bit of heart is going to feel empathy towards her, regardless. Criticisms aside, Moon’s performance along with her tender relationship with the central male protagonist prevents Lee’s film from being a total catastrophe and totally makes it worthwhile.