“War in Heaven”: A review of "The Drop Box" | Nick Olszyk | CWR
I adopt others because God adopted me,” says pastor Lee Jong-rak, whose work on behalf of abandoned babies in Seoul is depicted in this powerful film
MPAA Rating: NR
USCCB Rating: NR
Reel Rating: (5 out of 5)
In the last few years, there have been numerous movies dealing with pro-life topics that have ranged in quality from okay (October Baby, Bella) to pretty good (Juno, Gimmie Shelter), but all failing to hit the bulls-eye directly. The Drop Box hits it dead center, and it does so by simply showing the truth. The Drop Box is a documentary that follows a Korean pastor who builds a sort-of “mailbox” with an alarm for desperate women to anonymously drop off infants instead of abandoning them in the streets, a not uncommon practice.
Director Brian Ivie takes what could have been a rather dreary topic and makes it infinitely accessible, forceful enough to demand change but lighthearted enough to be enjoyable on a Saturday night date with popcorn and soda. The Drop Box is, I think, one of the best films of the decade so far.
In the 1970s, Lee Jong-rak was a Protestant seminary student in South Korea, so skinny he earned the nickname “fish bones.” He freely admits learning the guitar simply to attract girls and soon earned the reputation of being a ladies’ man despite no actual experience. After school, he married and started a small church in the capital city of Seoul. His life changed dramaticaly when his first son Eun was born with several serious deformities. Eun would spend the next fourteen years in the hospital, and Lee eventually sold his house to pay for the medical bills.
Several years later, Lee discovered an abandoned baby girl outside the church gate; she had been exposed to the cold for several hours and almost froze to death. He began to search for a way to help those poor souls, especially ones with disabilities. He came up with the idea for his Drop Box after seeing similar devices in the Czech Republic, based in part on medieval monasteries which cared for infants left on the doorstep. The documentary not only looks at Lee’s solution but examines the serious social injustices that lead to such an inhumane practice as abandonment. One factor is the serious stigma surrounding unwed mothers. For example, girls in school who are discovered to be pregnant are often expelled or beaten by their relatives. One woman tells Lee over the phone that she is planning to “poison herself and the baby.” Fortunately, he talks her out of it.
Every frame of this film radiates human dignity.