A 20-year-old autistic kid brings validation to his own and others’ lives in “Marathon,” a potential multi-hanky weepy that’s given a restrained sense of dignity by the performances and direction. Modest first feature by director Jung Yoon-cheol was a surprise hit on local release in February, garnering socko 5 million-plus admissions (around $30 million) against flashier competition for this year’s No. 1 spot in South Korea to date. But outside Asia, and maybe Latin territories, pic will have minimum legs.
Standout perf comes not so much from Jo Seung-woo as the handicapped Cho-weon, but from Kim Mi-suk as his mother, Gyeong-suk, whose quiet dedication to her elder son — at the expense of her younger one (Baek Seong-hyeon) — fuels the movie. Opening two reels sketch her day-to-day travails dealing with Cho-weon’s autism in scenes that play with surprising lightness. Main story starts when Cho-weon is a young man and Gyeong-suk convinces a former marathon runner (played with weary professionalism by Lee Gi-yeong) to coach her son in long-distance running. Bonding between coach and kid reveals a selfish side to mom’s apparent selflessness that drives the second half. Tech package is clean throughout.