Han Gong-Ju(한공주)is a Movie directed by Lee Su-Jin South Korea.
Han Gong-Ju ( Chun Woo-Hee ) is taken to a home in an unfamiliar area. The home belongs to her former high school teacher's mother. The mother wants to know why her son is leaving Han Gong-Ju there, even if he promises she will be there for only a week. An investigation is ongoing back in Han Gong-Ju's hometown. Can Han Gong-Ju escape from her past?
After transferring to a new school Gong-joo becomes friends with Eun-hee, who convinces her to join a cappella club. When news gets out of Gong-joo’s new hobby, a group of former classmates parents cause a stir, unveiling Gong-joo’s troubled past
In the last few years there were more and more movies coming out of Korea that dealt with social ills in the country. The crime depicted in "Han Gong-ju" seems particularly cruel and despite all the tactfulness the story is told with it is still mercilessly presented in its core. The drama has impressed critics and audiences alike, making the movie one of the most successful independent flicks coming out of the country. Yet, the drama certainly isn't for the faint-hearted. Furthermore, the slow pacing as well as the subtly told story will still mainly appeal to a patient audience. But despite or even because we don't get every answer on a silver platter the drama turns out to be very worthwhile.
In order not to take anything away from the special shock moment in the film I have refrained from talking too much about the story, which unfortunately can't be said of a lot of other review sites in this case. However, the protagonist's main trauma is apparent at all times. Who she tries to escape or hide from isn't really clear in the beginning, even the more so since people constantly stress that she hasn't done anything wrong. But the answers can be found throughout the rest of the movie. In fact, puzzling together the little pieces is an unusual feature of the film, although it becomes evident at some points that there was too little story stretched throughout too much movie. But this doesn't become apparent truely often, since "Han Gong-ju" works efficently with its characters and especially its female protagonist. Therefore, the drama has a much needed strong foundation and also manages to win you over during its more slow-paced moments.
Contrary to many other independet flicks "Han Gong-ju" isn't that lengthy. Every time the movie is about to get too lenghty, there is a new revelation or hint. For instance, the dialogue between Gong-ju and Eun-hee about their first kiss already makes you guess some of the information given later on. Accordingly, it isn't as frustrating to be left in the dark about certain events as it actually should have been. Thanks to affordable HD cameras nowadays the movie also doesn't look like an independent flick. On the contrary, there are a few parts where the pictures don't just look cold and melancholic, but instead stand out with lightflooded, sunny classrooms, in which for instance a short music video clip is shot. Considering the movie's main mood this should feel out of place, but that's not the case. With his debut director Lee Su-jin has proven to be quite talented.
The film is almost without any music, but in a few scenes Cheon Woo-hee, who already had supporting roles
in "Thread of Lies" or "Sunny", even expresses her feelings of hope in a warm song. Cheon very impressively portrays a complex teenager, who somehow has to try coping with the trauma she suffers from while she can't find any support and help from the adult world. Her parents have abandoned her, only Mrs. Jo seems to look after her a bit, whereas the old lady's subplot is particularly well woven into the movie. However, it remains a mystery why exactly Eun-hee wants to be friends with Gong-ju. Gong-ju behaves like a misfit and just wants to be left in peace. But people don't leave her alone. In fact this even seems to help her, but coping with her trauma isn't an easy task.
The flashbacks turn out to be implemented rather awkwardly. You don't exactly know at all times what time line we are on and particularly in the beginning this proves to be pretty irritating. Moreover, it merely seems to be a stylistic device to make the story appear more complex than it really is and create some tension as we are presented with the resolution of the events only at the very end. You could in fact put two and two together from all the hints we get before that, but this doesn't take anything away from the severeness of the trauma. "Han Gong-ju" isn't the gem than some want to see in it and the movie doesn't want to raise such expectation either. Instead this is a neatly written drama working with its characters and delivering some strong performances, not being pretentious in your usual art-house like fashion, but aiming at unraveling a cruel trauma in a natural way.