2013 LAFF: Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (**)

Nobody's Daughter HaewonNobody’s Daughter Haewon‘ is a cute Korean dramatic comedy about an unmotivated young woman studying to be an actress while dealing with a doomed relationship. In the beginning, Haewon () takes a walk with her mother () through familiar places and ends up calling her ex, Director Li (). After a night out, they try to start things again but they get in a fight. Unable to move past unresolveable differences, Haewon decides to move on regardless of what Director Li wants. From an immature young woman who has no goals in life to a lost person who chooses to take the first steps to growing up, this story doesn’t have much of an ending.

From what is understood about the work of writer and director , this type of story is his signature style, though told through a female’s perspective. Past works like ‘In Another Country‘ (2012) were nominated for countless awards, Hong is known for his signature style, visual storytelling, and camera movements. Although I appreciated his use of color and open space shots, I didn’t appreciate the panning that gave me headaches. Using similar images, the story felt repetitive, which only added to the emotions in the life of Haewon. There’s a loneliness she exudes and everything within the shots, up until the end, reflects on it. Although usually an avid fan of foreign films, especially Korean dramas, I didn’t appreciate the performance of Seon-gyun Lee in this film. Haewon’s lackluster performance also gave the film an overall bland taste. Perhaps, the most memorable character in the movie is Haewon’s mother, who is gone within the first 15 minutes of the movie.

Nobody's Daughter Haewon (still)Unlike most Korean films, this story had a weak beginning, strong middle, and no ending. Somehow, Haewon’s feelings in the beginning are never made visual but always internalized. In the middle, Haewon’s feelins come out and there is color in her, not just red, but also the earthy tones. And in the end, a decision is made but not externalized, which is frustrating to watch. What could be a great story about female empowerment is just a half-thought film about a young woman deciding to move on with her life. There’s nothing exciting about this film, some funny parts, but no great climax that leaves the audience feeling satisfied.