“Don’t Tell Papa” is a somewhat endearing film about an 8 year old boy, Cho-woo (played superbly by Seung-ho Yu), who lives with his single father. His dad works for meager wages at a nightclub as an MC. His boss keeps him employed because he is cheap.
Cho-woo has a fairly difficult life. He has never met his mother, whom he believes to be dead, because she ran off to America shortly after his birth. Her parents are wealthy and are shamed because their daughter was not married when she got pregnant. Cho-woo must spend all his after school hours at the club with his father. Cho-woo and the owner’s son are constantly fighting, which causes more problems between his father and the boss.
Eventually Cho-woo’s mother shows back up in Korea. She meets her former lover and their son, but the two don’t recognize each other. When she eventually figures out who he is, and that the little boy she has fallen in love with is her son, she decides she wants to be a part of his life now. Cho-woo’s father knows he is not perfect, but he doesn’t feel she has any right, after 8 years, to barge in and tell him how to raise his son. The boy, not knowing that the woman is his mother, has become infatuated with her and tries to get his father to marry her. This causes more problems between father and son.
The main problem with this film is that it tries unsuccessfully to mix humor and drama together. If the humor was actually funny, it might have been a different story. All of the jokes are nothing but a mixture of vulgarity and profanity that do nothing but detract from the true story, that of a motherless boy who his searching for answers.
On the other side of the coin, though, we find the young Seung-ho Yu turning in a beautiful performance as the confused and naive little boy whose greatest pleasure in life is pleasing his father. Everyone of his scenes, whether he is laughing, crying, or just pondering life around him are memorable and warming. This film is worth watching, but could have been a lot better without all the unnecessary filth and smut that the viewer must slog through to get to the meat of the story.