Director: Kim Seung-woo
Cast: Lee Yeong-ae, Yoo Jae-Myung, Park Hae-joon, Lee Won-geun, Heo Dong-won, Baek Joo-hee
Runtime: 1 hr 48 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Coarse Language and Violence)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Opening Day: 12 December 2019
Synopsis: Six years after her son went missing, dedicated mother Jung-Yeon still hasn't lost hope - even after her husband's shocking accident while rushing to follow up on a potential sighting. Although she's in mourning, drowned in despair for her losses, she doesn't give up. Just when everything feels like it's in vain, she hears about a young boy living in a fishing community outside the city who seems to resemble her lost son. Facing strange surroundings and corrupt cops covering up child abuse, Jung-yeon may not be able to handle all the obstacles in her way, let alone fend for herself.
There are practically less than fifteen movies and dramas listed on Lee Young-ae’s filmography but her iconic performances in movies liked Park Chan-wook’s Sympathy from Lady Vengeance, Joint Security Area and the long-running drama Dae Jang Geum practically made her an overnight superstar. After a long absence, Lee Young-ae returned to the silver screen as a determined mother who is hell-bent on searching for her missing son in Bring Me Home.
Directed and written by newcomer Kim Seung-woo, Bring Me Home is part social drama part thriller. Instead of churning out a straight-out action piece (for instance Liam Neeson’s Taken trilogy), Kim peppered the flick with jabs at the current Korean justice system. As a result, the movie takes a while to get things moving as we are introduced to Jung-yeon (Lee Young-ae), a nurse who spent her free time looking for her son who disappeared from a playground six years ago while her husband drives around the countryside searching for leads. Shortly after, a prank led to her husband’s tragic death and Jung-yeon is left alone to fend herself from her greedy brother-in-law who is eyeing her insurance money.
A subsequent tip from a guilt-ridden cop then leads Jung-yeon to a remote fishing village. A boy resembling her lost son is spotted there. And then you thought there’s going to be a nice closure lingering round the corner. Nope. Apparently, there’s more in store from Kim. Not the nicest ones in fact. A creepy corrupt cop, Hong (Yoo Jae-myung from Golden Slumber) turned up to stop Jung-yeon from poking her nose further. Predictably, Jung-yeong is not going to let him hinder her investigation and rest assured, things are not going to look rosy from that point on.
Kim is not one filmmaker to shy away from showcasing some surprisingly violence and gore scenes although most of them are brief and contained except a hunting scene which might be graphically hard to digest. There are even hints of sexual abuse from the perpetrator but fortunately, the audiences are spared the discomfort of watching the act. Kim takes his time to develop his tale and crafting the various villainous characters making sure that each one of them has a distinct, memorable characteristic liked the mentally challenged Halibut, In-sook the loud wife of Hong and Choi, the seemingly quiet but deadly worker.
But without Lee Young-ae’s performance, the movie might not work as perfectly. Fret not, Lee is still a stunning beauty despite convincingly portraying a despair, dishevelled mother. A mother that has no qualms risking her life to penetrate a household on a stormy night to uncover the truth and Lee nailed it right from the opening shot. Jung-yeon is not a talky character to begin with and Lee plays it with so much tender emotion that you probably share her anguish along the way. Veteran actor Yoo Jae-myung is equally a gem in the acting category, portraying a disgusting criminal all the while hiding behind his uniform and handcuffs.
Liked Dark Figure of Crime, Kim’s directorial debut touches yet again on relevant local social issues. The corrupted cops, the selfishness of society and the helpless judicial system. All these are likely root causes of this sort of forgotten crimes being committed. It’s unimaginable yet a reality that such cases still exist in a developed country liked Korea. Bring Me Home boasts excellent acting by Lee and Yoo respectively although some might have issues with the pacing and disturbing scenes. The cinematography by Lee Mo-gae is often atmospheric and a beauty to look at. Remember evil begets evil and the laws of karma applies to everyone of us. Kim’s movie perhaps is a testament to it.
(Lee Young-ae’s performance is the only bright spot in this well-written bleak, dark crime thriller)
Review by Linus Tee