05 November 2019 (released)
A charming film about two friends in a ‘fat camp’ and coming of age under with social and family pressures bearing down. Young-shin (Kwong Yeong-eun) is having a miserable time of it not losing weight by not taking part in the exercises and raiding the canteen freezer. Her roommate Ju-hee (Chung Su-bin) on the other hand is on a high closing in on her target weight. They have become fast friends exemplified in a tender scene where they dance and eventually kiss albeit awkwardly. Which unleashes all sorts of emotions in Young.
However Ju is now also attracting the attention of an older male instructor setting off a chain of events deeply affecting the young women’s friendship and relationship.
It’s a beautifully controlled film by director and writer Kim Ji-hee and the young cast are exceptional as they grapple with the complications of growing up fast and in a very strange environment.
The 1980 South African comedy The Gods Must Be Crazy is the unexpected source this short about two brothers inspired by the bushmen in the film to go out and play bow and arrows, build a den, while staying with their grandmother. It’s while the boys are playing that they spy a man treading about in a stream shifting rocks about. Gradually with youngest first they establish a rapport with the ‘bushman’ and he joins in their games, never saying a word.
There’s no sense of any danger in the friendship as they play, build and fish, even when they see that he is living in a car and the younger brother sees a photo of him with a young girl; he’s too young to make any observations. The boys continue to play with the bushman up until they leave, presenting him with the bow and arrow. The direction by Kim Yong-cheon is free flowing with the camera doing little more just observe and relate what is going on with little in the way of flourish which is just fine.
To Each Your Sarah
The return to the small town of birth from big city is a film staple which is a key element here but not the central driver. That is Jung-ja (Oh Mi-ne) returning to her home town from Seoul to stay with her sister and a taking up a horrible job cleaning out animal intestines in a slaughterhouse. There’s old enmities and memories among her colleagues as they set about making a terrible lot worse. Jung is coy to downright lying about her relationship with her husband who has run off with another woman. At a dinner date, she’s forced to fib about her marriage.
It’s a study of what one would presume was a well-heeled woman humiliated by her husband and forced back to a town and people that she’s left behind. The steaming resentment of the locals is palpable through actions such crowding them out the bus that takes them to and from work and deliberately taking space in the workplace. The fact that she changed her name to Sarah Lee doesn’t help. Her only real consolation she thinks she has is not giving her husband the divorce he seeks, until he forces the issue.
Sai (Raminda Charoenmak) has just started a new job as a valet in a luxury Korean seaside resort, and is earning extra money to help support her rather daft husband a young boy and 6-month baby. Money is tight with her income going towards the baby’s formula. But with hubby buying things they can’t afford and going wrong he sponges off her regardless of the effects on the baby. Sai starts to valet for woman who also has a baby boy building a rapport of sorts which is broken when an incident at home forces Sai to steal milk formula from the client. From our perspective it is out of necessity though when her guilt gets the better of her and tells her husband he doesn’t have the wherewithal to see that or understand his role.
However there’s a redemption of sorts for Sai when the client is taken to hospital and charges her with looking after the baby. With no formula left, Sai breast feeds the babe worried that this may have an effect on him.
Writer/director Jang Yu-jin posits a clear ambiguity here as whatever the reasoning, she stole and while her husband has a point, he’s mainly to blame for the situation. The relationship with the client is more difficult as while they establish a rapport, the fact that she is tipped quite obviously delineates the relationship. The theft is out of necessity, not malice, as was the feeding. But confessing to the client of her guilt would serve no purpose other to possibly lose her job. As morally dubious as it is no harm was done.