Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
TIFF ’14: In Her Place
is one of the few relationships Hallmark has yet to crack. It is hard to define
just what this moody teen represents to her well-heeled visitor, aside from
being the mother of her future baby. The two women will share intimate moments,
but there will always be a wall dividing them in Korean-Canadian filmmaker Albert
Shin’s In Her Place (trailer here), which screens
during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.
is safe to say the Girl is troubled. Frankly, her swelling stomach is only one
of her problems, but it is the most conspicuous one. For her Mother, the Woman
from Seoul is a Godsend. She will help out during the final months of
pregnancy, footing all the bills and providing enough additional money for the Mother
to get the run down farm back on its feet again. In exchange, she will leave
with the baby, claiming it as her own. This being Korea, social conventions
demand they keep everything hush-hush. However, the Girl is the wild card in
their best laid plans.
surprisingly, boys are a point of contention with her, but she has even deeper issues
regarding self-esteem and abandonment. The Woman from Seoul partly understands
this, but not fully so. She will take the time to get to know the Girl (as well
as the kind of-sort of boyfriend who is quite surprised to learn of her
condition), but the management-labor dynamic is hard to shake.
vibe of foreboding hangs over IHP right
from the start and the third act is a bit protracted, yet the film’s ultimate
tragedy still hits viewers with the force of a locomotive traveling at full steam.
Credit goes to the three principle women, who are each truly devastating, but
in a very different ways. Ahn Ji-hye is clearly a young breakout star of the
future, who maintains viewer sympathy and credibility despite all her painfully
self-destructive acting out. She could easily be the next Kim Go-eun (sort of
the reigning Jennifer Lawrence of Korean Cinema).
many American indie filmmakers would be tempted to portray the Woman from Seoul
as a one-percent exploiter, Shin and co-writer Pearl Ball-Harding take great
effort to humanize and explain her. She is a complicated character, whose past
pain and disappointments are subtly but powerfully conveyed by Yoon Da-kyung. Yet,
it is Kil Hae-yeon’s Mother who really sneaks up on the audience and rips
everyone’s guts out. In all fairness, it should also be noted two of the guys
(Kim Chang-hwan as the clueless Boy and Kim Seung-cheol as the Mother’s
farmhand-crony) are also very good, but they are doomed to be overshadowed by
After watching IHP you need a couple days to make peace with it, but in all
honesty, it is rare to find films that get under the skin in such a fashion. It
is also an usually quiet film that adeptly captures the stark silence and loneliness
of its rural setting. Cinematographer Moon Myoung Hwan truly transports us to
that hardscrabble locale. It is a demanding film, but it constitutes impressive
work all the way around. Recommended for discerning audiences, In Her Place screens again this Tuesday
(9/9) as part of this year’s TIFF.
Labels: Canadian Cinema, TIFF '14