Even in Romeo and Juliet love is being brought to the audience through an agonizing tragedy where the two families disagree with their love. Director Chang-Dong Lee utilizes a similar tragedy in his Oasis where he enlightens the viewers of a much more contemporary issue where the two protagonists find themselves rejected by their own families. However, it is within the tragedy that humanity is given an opportunity to grow and show that love does reach beyond vanity and self-importance.
The opening shot displays an embroidered depiction of something resembling an oasis emerging from underneath the shadows of the night, as a tree outside throws its nightmarish shadow over the the embroidery. The camera finally reveals a small oasis in the middle of a desert with a Indian woman, a boy, and an elephant. This initial sequence continues for almost two minutes. A time that might seem like an eternity for introducing the title of the film. However, these two minutes will also bring to mind a different notion, which will disclose itself at a later point in the film. In addition, the film will return to this embroidery, as it represents the main motif of the film both literally and symbolically.
The film begins with Hong Jong-Du (Kyung-gu Sol) returning home on a bus with summer clothing in the middle of a freezing winter. Initially, Jong-Du's light clothing might imply that there is something wrong with him, and yes, there is something wrong with him. However, it is not his summer wear, but his social interaction with people that seems strange on a communicational level. He wanders home to find out that his family have moved without informing him about their whereabouts. Alone, Jong-Du drifts until hunger sets in and he gets in trouble with the law, which obviously is not the first time when it is revealed that he has just been released from prison. Fortunately, one of Jong-Du's brothers bails him out and brings him home, but it is not a dear homecoming for Jong-Du.
Every second of the film displays additional problems that Jong-Du has, and it is evident that Jong-Du suffers from some cognitive disorder. In an awkward and unwelcome visit of Jong-Du with the family whose father he accidentally killed in a car accident he meets Han Gong-Ju (Moon So-ri), the daughter of the deceased father. Gong-Ju suffers from cerebral palsy and is more or less stranded in her fathers old apartment, as her brother has found it convenient to leave her in the hands of her neighbor.
During the second visit to Gong-Ju, Jong-du breaks into her apartment out of curiosity. He talks with her and expresses his affection for her while leaving her his brother's business card with a phone number where she can reach him. Consequently, Jong-Du begins to express his desires for her by sexually assaulting her. It is with much difficulty one has to watch this dreadful scene, but it also further displays Jong-Du's inability to function on a normal level. She passes out while Jong-Du panics and runs away after having gotten her back to consciousness. From out of the blue Jong-Du receives a phone call. It is Gong-Ju who calls him and she wants to meet. This brings them through an unusual, yet tender love affair with respect, care, and affection where the embroidery on the wall comes into play.
The performances by Kyung-gu Sol and Moon So-ri are astounding, as they help elevate the film to the heartrending experience that it provides. This is the second time these two actors have worked together, as they both were in the terrific Peppermint Candy (2000). Here in Oasis they seem very comfortable with one another and this is essential for them to be able to pull off such terrific performances. Both give very different visualizations of their characters and they do so convincingly well.
Chang-Dong Lee depicts a loving tale through some amazing scenes where he breaks the boundaries between what is real and fantasy. It is in these fantasy scenes where the audience will find themselves bewildered to what is truly happening, but it must be magical happiness that is being expressed. The camera also reveals some stunning realism where the interaction between Gong-Ju and Jong-Du displays both their difficulties and how they cope with their difficulties in society. Through the combination of fantasy and realism Chang-Dong Lee expresses a genuine concern about the issue at hand, which suggests that all people have the right to love and feel loved.