London Korean Film Festival 2018: This Charming Girl – Review

There is something to be said for films that focus on everyday life. There are no large explosions, dance numbers or gun fights. The couple might not end up together at the end, the protagonist doesn’t always win and life will continue on in the same way that it does for all of us. But, watching a film that focuses in on the minutea of an everyday life and the secret personal lives of its characters can sometimes be more suspenseful than any blockbuster. Waiting for the big reveal or the event that will somehow turn everything on its head, we come to the slow realisation that that is not going to happen and yet we cannot look away from the mirror that it holds up to our own lives.

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This Charming Girl is one such film. Released in 2004 by Lee Yoon-ki as his directorial debut, it is the first of his 7 films that focus on the everyday lives of their central characters. This Charming Girl follows the life of Jeong-hae, a twenty something postal worker whose life is filled with the monotonous repetition of the same tasks and an isolation that she seems to have chosen for herself. One day she rescues a kitten and, from this one small action, ripples are sent out into the rest of her life, seemingly making her question the course that her life is taking. Through her memories, that are shown to us as they surface in her mind, we see the events that have brought her to this moment and how they have shaped how she interacts with the world.

Lee Yoon-ki deals with his subject matter with a subtlety and deftness that you would not expect from a debut. His use of camera movement, positioning and length of shot gives an immediacy to the film that means, as a viewer, you cannot hide behind the detachment that you can sometimes feel towards film. Music is used sparingly and the silence heightens the actions of the lead by removing any distraction that can be provided by music and puts all the focus on the actions and words of the actors. It also adds to this feeling of being in the film as all of the soundtrack is the sounds that the characters would hear and is not an added layer providing cues of how you are to react to what you are seeing. Kim Ji-soo is mesmerising as Jeong-hae, playing her with a stillness and nuance that stops you from turning away from her throughout what is very nearly a one person show.

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While I had been aware of the movement to digital filming and the fact that now filming on film stock is worthy of mention, I had never really considered the effect that this had had on the actual viewing experience of a film. As soon as the film began, I was aware of the small scratches and dust particles that you get when projecting using film. Though the fact that I was aware of this might make it sound like it was distracting, it wasn’t. It added an organic layer of reality that would have been lost if it was a digital presentation. I know that this obviously wasn’t a consideration when it was filmed, but watching it now in the age of HD and hyper realism, there was something comforting and more realistic in its flaws that leant itself to the story more than if it was perfect.

It was a cold and rainy afternoon when I went into the cinema and it was a cold and rainy evening when I left. I did not leave the cinema ebullient or needing to find someone immediatly to discuss the film. I left, ignoring the weather, considering what I had just watched and contemplating on my own life decisions. It was a film that made me want to reflect and I look forward to watching the rest of the director’s catalogue, hoping to find at least a fraction of the awareness and focus that I saw in this film.

Find out more about London Korean Film Festival 

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