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Missing – FILM REVIEW

Calling all Korean film fans! Teaser screenings are being shown over the next few months building up to the London Korean Film Festival 2017, so there are lots of movies and documentaries to look forward to!

The first movie of the programme is ‘Missing’.

This is an exciting and stylish thriller, directed by Lee Eon-hie. Her lead actresses give powerful performances, addressing topical issues that affect two women at very different ends of the social spectrum. Read on to find out more information about the film, read our review and most importantly, where to watch it!

Plot synopsis

‘Missing’ tells the story of Lee Ji-sun, who is a single working mother (played by Uhm Ji-Won, The Silenced) and recently divorced. She returns home one day to find that her baby daughter and nanny Han-mae (portrayed by Kong Hyo-Jin, Crush and Blush) have disappeared. Ji-sun cannot seek help from the police due to an ongoing custody battle, and so a nightmare scenario begins to unfold. She then discovers that Han-mae has lied about her identity and the situation becomes much more sinister. So the frantic chase begins…

Review of ‘Missing’

Ji-sun is the epitome of a busy career woman, working a demanding job whilst simultaneously attempting to juggle being a single mother. She doesn’t get the balance quite right by prioritising her work first; often there are tinges of regret in her expression, as she spends little time with her own child, Da-eun. The audience are introduced to her nanny, Han-mae, who outwardly seems like a dependable person albeit with a slightly timid disposition. She is seen tending to every need of both Ji-Sun and Da-eun without fail. That is, until that fateful day where everything Ji-sun knows is turned upside down in whirlwind fashion.

Use of flashbacks and the questioning of societal behaviours

The story is fleshed out with the use of flashbacks, adding details to Ji-sun’s backstory and current situation. When Ji-sun first meets Han-mae, she is struggling to cope; her apartment is strewn with clutter and she is desperately trying to calm a crying Da-eun. Han-mae was recommended to her but Ji-sun has initial misgivings due to Han-mae being Chinese and not being able to speak Korean fluently. She is won over, however, when Han-mae stops Da-eun’s cries by singing a song. Ji-sun’s ex-husband is a doctor and pressuring her for custody of their daughter. We found it a little difficult to be on the side of Ji-sun when she initially states that she cannot live without Da-eun. There is a disparity between what she thinks she is providing for Da-eun as a mother, and the reality, because she does not take an active role in her child’s daily life. This is underlined further with the time it takes for Ji-sun to realise that Han-mae and her daughter are missing.

Director Lee Eon-hie does well to portray various elements affecting women today, including unfair treatment in the workplace, abusive marriages and issues affecting single mothers and immigrant workers. One of the supporting characters utters ‘only the poor suffer’ at one point in the movie, touching on society’s discrimination with social bias in addition to gender bias. We enjoyed this extra dimension to the film, and admire the director’s tenacity in questioning societal norms and accepted behaviours which are detrimental to the livelihood of many people on a regular basis.

The director strategically instils doubts into our minds regarding Han-mae’s character. A security guard describes the nanny as being weird, highly strung and overprotective of the child, and later we discover that Han-mae’s ID is fake. As Ji-sun’s search intensifies, mystery and intrigue follow.

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Multi-faceted characters and stunning performances

The thought of being on the losing side of a custody battle scares Ji-sun out of involving the police, putting her at an even greater disadvantage in her search for Da-Eun. It gradually dawns on her that she did not even realise who her nanny really was until Da-eun’s disappearance. As Han-mae’s fabricated persona slowly unravels, the race towards the truth plays out in front of our very eyes. ‘Missing’ is a commendable thriller with strong females at the helm. It is a film that highlights the plight and inner turmoil of those forgotten by society, and how they are trying their best to survive instinctively in a cut-throat and unforgiving world.

Uhm Ji-won and Kong Hyo Jin are given challenging roles, and attack them with gusto. Their performances are central to the plot, and so it was pivotal that their characters were convincing. We thought that the acting was superb; Ji-won’s portrayal of Ji-sun’s increasing desperation in her search was heart-wrenching and Kong Hyo Jin’s depiction of a pure soul being chipped away by a life fraught with sadness and hardship as an immigrant, was very thought-provoking. Their performances garner our sympathies at different points of the film as we discover that each person’s story is multi-dimensional. The use (and removal) of sound in the movie is also a highlight; heightening the atmosphere of key scenes and underpinning the drama and emotion. Ultimately, ‘Missing’ is an interesting and suspenseful watch, a film about women told with the sensitivity of a female director.

 

Concluding remarks

In an industry where female-centred films can be few-and-far between, we think that ‘Missing’ should be applauded as a well-made piece of cinematography, telling a gripping tale that deserves to be recognised alongside the blockbuster setpieces of Korean cinema.

We really enjoyed this film, and recommend that you go and see it for yourselves!

 

Where to watch the film

‘Missing’ had its UK premiere on Monday 10th April at the Picturehouse Central as part of the London Korean Film Festival 2017, but don’t worry if you missed it first time, because it also has a second screening scheduled in Cambridge at the Arts Picturehouse, 6:30pm on Monday 24th April!

Purchase tickets for the showing by clicking the link below:

https://www.picturehouses.com/cinema/Arts_Picturehouse_Cambridge/film/missing

Follow the London Korean Film Festival on Twitter for more K-film news: @koreanfilmfest

© All images were provided by the London Korean Film Festival for specific use in this review.

Louisa Lee

Enthusiastic writer, scientist, and foodie. Enjoys discovering new music, films and books, as well as travelling, trying various cuisines and learning about different cultures. My music player is never too far away - life just isn’t complete without music!

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