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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

SIFF Sighting: THIS CHARMING GIRL (drama; South Korea)

this_charming_girl_05

What good is it to live, with nothing left to give?
asks a lyric from Coldplay's "Swallowed in the Sea," which kept working its way into my head as I watched this film.

The story centers around Jeong-hae, played beautifully by Kim Ji-soo, who numbly makes her way through life amidst incredible pain and heartache. She comes and goes to her job at the post office at the appropriate times, has single meals delivered to her apartment, and somewhat unwillingly leads a solitary existence.

You get the sense that her past held better times, but the flashbacks she has are both mundane and tragic, so it's hard to tell.

What we witness of her present day is someone trying desperately to navigate reality in the face of unspeakable pain. She does all the things that lonely people do to cope—she keeps her home immaculate, she takes in a pet to have something that will depend on her and she engages in conversation primarily with co-workers.

What's wonderful about how these actions are presented here is that our leading lady is such a great actress, you can feel her dismay as she goes through the motions, though she never verbalizes it. When she sees another woman happily tending to a baby, those of us who aren't blessed with children immediately absorb and reflect her sadness; when she is stood up for dinner and begins to unwrap the hot dishes one-by-one to eat alone, anyone who has ever been disappointed in a friend will undoubtedly feel like weeping.

The pace of the film is intentionally slow, just as the character would feel watching everyone's lives progress as she quietly remains stagnant. The encounters we see only solidify the pity we feel for this beautiful soul who has so much to offer, yet no one to share it with.

Everyone who sees this should be reminded of the folks in their lives who may feel invisible to the rest of the world. And they should pay them a visit.

THIS CHARMING GIRL screened at the 35th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.

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