From left: Actors Choi Woo-sung, Na Moon-hee and director Lee Soon-sung pose after a press conference for the new movie “My Perfect Roommate” held at Megabox Coex on Wednesday. (Twin Plus Partners)
An idea of two total strangers -- a grandmother with a spare room and a college student -- becoming a “family” might be as novel as it sounds, but it is an actual experimental room-sharing program that inspired director Lee Soon-sung for his upcoming film “My Perfect Roommate.”
The room-sharing project has been running since 2013 in the northwest district of Nowon in Seoul and connects university students that are looking for a place to stay with elderly people who live alone and have a spare room. The policy intends to provide university students with comparably cheaper rooms and at the same time benefit seniors, those aged 60 or older, who hope to earn extra money and keep them company.
“At the Nowon library, I saw a pamphlet about room sharing that is similar to what Ji-woong (protagonist) sees in the movie. I thought I could create a fun story about a grandmother and young college student living together,” the director said during a press conference held at Megabox Coex on Wednesday.
In addition to the social experiment, a documentary about a lonely elderly woman who spends time at a local McDonald’s, dubbed “McDonald’s grandma,” was also what had inspired him.
Around the time that he discovered the room-sharing program, the director also realized the plight of lonely older adults through the documentary.
The SBS documentary, aired in 2011, follows a homeless elderly woman who used to sit at a McDonald‘s in Seoul at night.
“In the documentary, she spends nights at McDonald’s, has a cup of coffee in the morning, takes a short nap in a church and then returns to McDonald‘s at night,” he said.
In the upcoming movie, grandma Geum-boon (Na Moon-hee) finds a new roommate Ji-woong (Choi Woo-sung), a university student, through a room-sharing program that connects young students with seniors who live alone. However, it is not easy for the two strangers to get along with each other.
As the story develops, Lee’s movie features how the experimental policy can help form a new type of family.
“The traditional definition of family is usually limited to people that are connected by blood, marriage or adaption. But my definition of family is people who eat together. And also, not the ones that share special pains but share daily life,” he said. ”My film may look like a fantasy now, but I think room sharing can really create a new kind of family.”
Veteran actor Na, 80, agreed with the director.
“I think it is great for grandmothers who live alone and have a spare room to be able to find a student roommate. It will make both of their lives better,” Na said.
During the press conference, Na, who appears in more than one drama or movie every year, was also asked about what motivates her to work so hard.
“Nobody is too old to do something. Maybe I am naive thinking this way. But I just like performing,” Na said. “I really enjoy what I am doing and am just excited for what will happen to me tomorrow. I hope that I can live like this without relying on others until the day I die.”
The veteran actor also talked about her career plans.
“I am up for performing grandmother characters with Alzheimer‘s. I heard that there are different cases. So I am currently doing some research,” she said. “But I would take any role. I do not plan to be picky.”
Choi, 25, for whom it is his debut feature, said he is honored to work with such an experienced actor like Na.
“My Perfect Roommate” directed by Lee Soon-sung (Twin Plus Partners)
“While shooting the film, she brought fruits and food for me like a real grandmother,” Choi said. “I also had many talks with the director. I am inexperienced but he is a veteran so I tried to learn from him.”
The drama film “My Perfect Roommate” will hit local theaters on Wednesday.