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At its heart, The Drop Box is not a documentary about an incredible pastor, Lee Jong-rak, who founded South Korea’s first box for abandoned newborn babies. It’s not about pro-life agendas, or the messy, controversial politics surrounding adoption, single mothers, and welfare. The Drop Box is really about one father’s unconditional love for his sons and daughters—for no greater reason than they are born his.
Director Brian Ivie, who professed Christ while making this film, says his movie isn’t an altar call or a sermon, but a real-life story with universal themes of broken systems, broken souls, broken bodies, and the hope for redemption through such ashes.
Christians will recognize these gospel metaphors, but the film also captures other dynamics. We sense Lee’s physical, emotional, and financial exhaustion: He’s facing intense pressure from government and society to shut down his operation. Sometimes, he’s pulling all-nighters tending to wailing newborns and sick infants, causing his wife Chun-ja to worry about his soaring blood pressure and diabetes. Meanwhile, they’re parenting 19 kids with various disabilities, including their biological son Eun-man—a 29-year-old bedridden, brain-damaged man with a flattened head and splayed legs.
Like his name, which means “full of God’s grace,” Eun-man is the inspiration behind Lee’s ministry. His daily bonding time with his father is when Lee is sucking saliva out of his throat. The scene will leave viewers swelling with all sorts of emotions and thoughts that Lee is either superhuman, or he’s receiving superhuman strength from somewhere.
Documentaries and biopics about amazing work tend to direct glory and praise to the human worker. The Drop Box, however, shows that Lee—once a dirty-tempered, skirt-chasing drunk—would never have saved a single baby’s life if not for a love that flows from a higher source. And for the blessed viewer who discerns this truth, it means an invitation to enjoy that same Father’s love.