Drama, Films, Reviews, South Korea

Nobody’s Daughter Hae-won

Hong Sang-soo gets behind the scenes again and introduces us to a girl left without parents and far from her idols, alone and free like the unreliable wind…

Magazines aficionados, gossip lovers often dream or try everything they can to be the first one to spread the news. Watching an Hong Sang-soo’s movie sometimes looks like we’re spying on our favorites VIP through his eyes. Actors and actresses, directors and critics work as main characters or, to be more precise, as simple thoughts came out alive from Hong Sang-soo’s mind. Episodes in common lives experienced by those we admire by a distance.

And that distance sometimes is shortened by dreams and that’s how we’re introduced to our young and beautiful actress, Haewon (Jung Eun-chae, Haunters, Behind the Camera). Lying on a table in a café she dreams of meeting Jane Birkin in the streets of Seoul, but the reality is pretty far from that and not at all extraordinary event: Haewon is there to meet her Mother (Kim Ja-ok, My Tutor Friend, The Righteous Friend), who will leave Seoul forever in order to live with her son in Canada.

Left without a father and a mother, Nobody’s Daughter Haewon starts with a rearrangement of Beethoven’s Pastoral to turn on the right mood, it’ll be a comedy, it’ll be a slice of life with its up and downs. With no parents and no boyfriend, Haewon decides to call her lover, her acting teacher Lee Seong-joon (Lee Sung-gyun, Oki’s Movie, Helpless, All About My Wife) with whom she had an affair a year ago. They start dating again in secret, they go for a walk on the Namhan Fortress in Gwangju and they get caught by the wind of chaos that controls everyone’s life.

Sitting in front a big screen where a Hong Sang-soo’s movie is being shown it’s like sitting on a jeep during a safari, where our director is literally hunting thoughts and emotion, using his camera and his zoom to catch them as they were small and quick wild animals. Looking at ourselves is as painful as being surrounded by the stink of fear, followed by a lion or a hyena ready to jump and remind us who we are and who we cannot be.

It’s difficult to say if Sang-soo will ever make a movie better than another, all of them have to be seen as a whole, until now a series point that if united make a perfect circle. The audience must pay attention if it desires to feel the sweet sorrow shown in a few outstanding shots on the walls of Namhan, where the mood changes from the Pastoral to Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, with all its grandeur and epic notes. Nobody’s Daughter Haewon starts as a comedy and ends as an emotional tragedy, exactly ninety minutes in which Haewon, Lee Seong-joon and every other character is attached to a pole like a flag, allowing us to watch the wind running.

Wind is beauty, wind can get scary, wind can caress us and comfort our hearts in moments of sorrow, it can be our father or our mother, our lover or our brother, but what it cannot be is our friend: it comes and goes, it decides where to go and how to relate with us. There’s no way it’ll always be by our side. Same as the director, at first merciful and kind, shooting an average funny and bright day, then turning his back on his creatures, watching them crying alone.

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon is released on UK DVD on 4 November by StudioCanal.

Review originally posted 17 April 2013.

About the author

Fausto Vernazzani
Once upon a time in a country not so far away (named Italy) there was a Fausto who was always watching movies but without really loving them – until he saw some movies directed by some unknown guys like Kim Ki-duk, Park Chan-wook and Takeshi Kitano.... More »

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4 thoughts on “Nobody’s Daughter Hae-won

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