Hae-won (Seong-won Ji) works at a large back in Seoul, South Korea. She’s young and beautiful and very professional, but personally, she’s for the most part just a miserable person of very little conscience. One night, she sees a young woman being physically assaulted. When the girl begs for help, Hae-won simply ignores her. When the police bring her in to identify the assailants, she finds some petty reason to not identify them, even though she knows its them. Back at work, an accident leaves her locked in a bathroom stall, and mistaking it for a vindictive act by a co-worker, proceeds to go out in the middle of the office, where she slaps her…hard. After that, her boss sends her on a forced vacation. She decides to go to an island named Moo-do off the coast of the mainland where she grew up.
Bok-nam (Yeong-hie Seo) and Hae-won were childhood friends, and when Hae-won shows up on the island, Kim Bok-nam is very happy to see her, as is everyone except for one of the elders, who also happens to be Bok-nam’s husband’s aunt. Everything seems generally fine at first, but then things start to unravel. As we find out more and more about the incredible physical, sexual and mental abuse that Bok-nam has endured at the hands of nearly everyone throughout her life, things seem more and more dismal on this tiny little island. When she begs her friend to take her and her daughter back to tha mainland with her, Hae-won not only refuses to help, but turns a blind eye to the abuse. When Bok-nam tries to take her daughter and run away from the island on her own, he catches them and drags her back, beating and abusing her all the way, and when their daughter tries to stop him, he kicks her away, and she hits her head on a rock and dies. When an official comes to the island to document the death, she tries to tell him what happened, but everyone else covers it up and all back up the story that it was an accident. Finally, unable to take the abuse anymore, Kim Bok-nam takes her revenge against everyone who’s ever abused her, going on a killing spree of epic proportions. When Hae-won escapes the island however, Bok-nam follows her to the mainland. Will she get her final revenge? You’ll have to watch the film to find out.
The rape/abuse/revenge flick is nothing new. They’ve been around since the days of Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave. This film however, takes disturbing to a whole new level. As things unravel, you come to fully understand what Bok-nam has been through, not just as an adult, but going all the way back to when she was a child. Even then, Hae-won turned a blind eye to the abuse, and as much as is revealed about the horrors that Bok-nam has lived through, we also learn what a horribly cold, unfeeling and just horrible person Hae-won is. For whatever reason, Hae-won is completely lacking in any semblance of caring or humanity. It’s hard to watch this film, but only because it does such an amazing job of telling such a horrible story.
Visually, this film is very…gritty. I don’t know how else to describe it. Everything about the look of it, especially on the island, reinforces the dark story that’s so brilliantly told by its amazing cast. Yeong-hie Seo was so real and believable in her portrayal of someone who had endured a lifetime of abuse so horrible that she had actually gotten used to it. I can’t say enough good things about this incredible actress. She’s only been in thirteen films since she started with Jealousy is My Middle Name in 2002, but she performs like someone who’s had a lifetime of experience. Amazing is too shallow of a word to describe what she brough to this horribly tragic character.
Seong-won Ji as Hae Won starts out feeling like the person who’s going to be going through all the horror in the film, but then in a fabulous twist of the plot, she turns out to be a monster of a different kind. There’s nothing about this character that makes you care about her in the slightest, and that’s what it was supposed to be. She played the role just right, and absolutely nailed it, bringing out of the viewer exactly the feelings they wanted us to have for the character. In fact, there’s not a single member of this cast I can’t say that about. They were all just brilliant, and delivered this story precisely the way it needed to be told to make the greatest emotional impact on the viewer.
For special features, the release includes a behind the scenes featurette and the film’s trailer.
There really aren’t enough great things to say about this film, but that said, it is difficult to watch. Should you watch it? Yes, absolutely. Even if you have a hard time with films like this, it’s worth seeing, and I can’t recommend it enough. While I’m sure there are films in this genre that are more shocking, brutal or whatever, I seriously doubt you’ll ever find one as expertly crafted or as beautifully acted as this one.
If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Well Go USA website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the blu-ray or DVD from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.