A Girl At My Door

 

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A South Korean masterpiece in which the complex issues of child abuse, affection and bureaucracy are brought shockingly into focus.

 

July Jung’s debut feature addresses so many inflammatory themes with such finesse and intelligence that one is left reeling. Like many great films, this South Korean drama starts quietly, deftly dropping clues here and there while its characters come into focus.

 

A female police chief from Seoul is stationed at a remote seaside community where the inhabitants seem to be either senior citizens or fishermen. Lee Young-nam is petite and reserved, as if recuperating from an incident in her past that has left her partially dazed. She has barely moved into town when she finds herself repeatedly running into the small, fragile form of Sun Do-hee, a 14-year-old schoolgirl who is beaten by her classmates, her father and her grandmother. As Young-nam establishes her routine she witnesses many of these beatings and reluctantly takes the girl under her wing…

  

Girl At My Door

Doing the right thing: Kim Sae-ron and Bae Doona

 

As one might expect from the producer Lee Chang-dong, who previously wrote and directed the award-winning Poetry, A Girl at My Door looks glorious – but it’s the subject that rivets. In our current age, violence confined within a family is often more socially acceptable than love outside of it, and A Girl at My Door drives this truth home with shocking clarity. As Do-hee, Kim Sae-ron hijacks the film, successfully running the gamut from pathetic to delightful (when she dances) to manipulative and perverse. Child abuse has never been a straightforward issue, and July Jung peels back the paradoxical layers with a prowess that is both disturbing and mind-bending. One film, then, not to be approached lightly.


JAMES CAMERON-WILSON


Cast: Bae Doona, Kim Sae-ron, Song Sae-byeok, Kim Jin-gu.

 

Dir July Jung, Pro Lee Chang-dong, Lee Joon-dong and Kim Ji Yeon, Screenplay July Jung, Ph Kim Hyun-seok, Pro Des Sang-yoon Yoon, Ed Lee Young-lim, Music Jang Young-gyu and Han Hee-jung, Costumes Ha-Kyoung Kim.

 
Pine House Film/Now Films–Peccadillo Pictures.
119 mins. South Korea. 2014. Rel: 18 September 2015. Cert. 18.