A Girl At My Door Film Review

   A Girl At My Door, July Jung's feature debut, is a harrowing film even by Korean standards. Alcoholism, homophobia, death, child abuse and institutional corruption are but a few of the difficult topics covered in the film. Gladly, I can report, Jung's film is equally impressive even by Korean standards - a country which has consistently created some of the most vital movies of the last generation.

   The film is set in the quiet seaside town of Yeosu - despite the drunken excess of its inhabitants, the local law enforcement offices leave them to it. Indeed, recent police transfer Lee Young-nam (Bae Doo-na), eager to keep a low profile, ignores all she sees each and every day and unwinds, nightly, with copious amount of soju. It is a grim but uneventful existence.

   Young-nam's life, however, is altered for good when she intervenes upon discovering local gangster Yong-ha (Song Sae-byeok) is abusing his troubled teenage daughter Do-hee (Kim Sae-ron). Young-nam offers to provide the young girl sanctuary in her home and, from here, we see an ambiguous relationship unfold in which we're never quite sure of who needs the other the most or, equally, whose troubles are likely to sink the other first. There is darkness inside both Young-nam and Do-hee; can they each inspire one another to seek the light, or do they wander aimlessly in shadows together?

   July Jang's excellent film continues the trend for independent Korean film-makers to explore the dark underbelly of the nation in a guttural and gritty fashion but, thankfully, shies clear of some of the sensationalism associated with Kim Ki-duk and his ilk.

   A Girl at my Door
is an intense yet entirely believable character study of two distressed souls who are connected by their shared need for love in a world where true affection is rare. Cruelty, says Jung's film, dehumanises us all - this is a movie of two beings trying to recapture their humanity in a society of beasts. This is an uneasy, unsettling film which is as powerful as it is essential.

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