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K-Movie Reco: ‘The Last Princess’ starring Son Ye Jin, Park Hae Il

Disclaimer: Post may contain spoilers.

The Last Princess is one of the movies I never knew I’ll fell in love with. Who would’ve thought that this film is something so precious and eye-opening to know a few tidbits on the life of Korea’s last princess?

So here I am once again, recommending to you another Son Ye Jin film that you should include in your movie list.

The Last Princess, Deokhye

The Last Princess
The Last Princess Poster | Photo from Han Cinema

The 2016 movie is all about Korea’s last princess of the Joseon Dynasty, Deokhye. The film will give its viewers a very informative period-drama film covering her life in Japan.

It was set between the years 1910-1960s when the country is being occupied by Imperial Japan. Deokhye was forced to move to Japan to pursue her studies without knowing when will she ever return again. The movie opens to the life of young Deokhye, acknowledged by her father, King Gojong (who became Emperor during the Japanese annexation).

Princess Deokhye circa 1932
Princess Deokhye | Source: Wikipedia

The father-daughter duo shared a heartwarming bond to kick off the film and got us introduced to Kim Jang Han (portrayed by Park Hae Il), who was supposedly betrothed to Deokhye. However, the scene was cut short with the King’s suspicious demise that started the heartbreaking journey of the last princess.

Young Deokhye and Emperor Gojong
Young Princess and her Father | From Youtube

The movie takes a turn when a thirteen-year old Deokhye (portrayed by Kim So Hyun) is forced to move to Japan with her Court Lady, Bok Soon (portrayed by Ra Mi Ran).

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Kim So Hyun as the teen Deokhye
Kim So Hyun as the teen Princess. | From Youtube

As much as her heart breaks to leave, she knew deep down that not obeying the advice from his brothers may bring more harm to their people. Deokhye believed that she will go to Japan to “study” and return home once finished.

Fast forward to few years, Deokhye is now a completely grown woman, she still wishes to go back to Korea. She then meets Kim Jang Han, who now serves for the Japanese army which gives her a slight hope to help her return home.

A Good Combination of Historical Facts and Fiction

What makes this film interesting to watch is that it was based on a true story. The main character actually existed and the story revolves around her life. It takes its viewers on a journey to an important event in Korean history that highly influenced Korea we know today.

Here are some of the events from the film that were based on historical events:

  • Deokhye’s education in Japan
  • Her forced marriage to Count So Takeyuki (portrayed by Kim Jae Wook)
  • The sudden disappearance of her daughter, Masae
  • Confinement in mental institutions
  • Return to Korea after 38 years
Kim Jae Wook and Son Ye Jin
Kim Jae Wook and Son Ye Jin | Photo from Han Cinema

The execution of the abovementioned events was depicted in the film with a good addition of fiction. Adding up a bit of fiction in the movie made it more dramatic for the viewers.

Dreading for Motherland

The film mainly revolves around Deokhye’s several attempts to return to Korea. As she was taken away from her home and her mother at a young age, she became isolated and distant from the people around her. She doubted people around her knowing how Han Taek Soo has been betraying her and her family.

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Park Hae Il
Park Hae Il as Kim Jang Han | From Youtube

Luckily, she was able to reunite with Kim Jang Han who gave her solace throughout the film. One thing I’ve also noticed is that it was not only Princess Deokhye who’s longing to return back to Korea. It was indeed her whole family and fellow countrymen who seemed trapped in a country they weren’t familiar with, a country that isn’t their home. 

The Last Princess
Princess Deokhye standing in front of the Korean People | From Youtube

Spoiler, the Princess’ attempts to return home were all unsuccessful as depicted in the film. The experiences she had might be one of the triggers she became confined in a mental institution.

The Last Princess returns home

When Korea has finally gained full independence at the end of World War II, the monarchy in Korea has been abolished. The descendants of the Royals were all in exile or denied entry to return home for possible political revolutions.

Son Ye Jin as the adult Deokhye | From Youtube

It was a heartwarming scene when she was found by Kim Jang Han after so many years. Isolated, alone, and unaware of what has changed in the world, it is a bittersweet reunion for the two leads.

Deokhye was granted permission to return to Korea in 1962, where she is greeted by her court ladies. She has finally reunited with Bok Soon and has spent her final years in Nakseon Hall, Changdeok Palace till her death in 1989.

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Final Thoughts

Son Ye Jin did not disappoint me in this film! Her portrayal of Deokhye seems like the role was made for her. She really deserves bagging the Best Actress award in Baeksang and Grand Bell back in 2016.

Did this film make me cry? Absolutely. Ye Jin’s acting was spot-on making me sympathize with her character all throughout. Got to mention Park Hae Il’s outstanding performance in this film as well! And yes, Ra Mi Ran nailed her performance as the most loyal court lady every princess could ask for.

Story-wise, it is indeed an enlightening yet heartbreaking film. I’ve felt Deokhye’s desperation of wanting to come back home. It made me understand more how Korea was like under Japanese rule. Which I can relate to as the Philippines were also colonized by Japan during World War II.

Even though several parts of the film were fictionalized, its execution can make the audience feel like they’ve been with the characters back in the day. The film is such a fantastic approach for people interested to learn more about the last days of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty.

Overall rating: 10/10

Luckily bes, you can stream The Last Princess on Netflix! You can watch it here and don’t forget to share your feels~!

Featured Image from Han Cinema.

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