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[HanCinema's BIFF Film Review] Violence and unhappiness define Lee Hwan's Indie film "Park Hwa-young"

2017/10/28 | 456 views | Permalink

The combination of human depravity and the inability to change are what define Lee Hwan's indie film, "Park Hwa-young". Each time a moment pivotal moment blooms with a chance for change, it is stymied by the purposefully one-dimensional characters. However, even as the titular character falls deeper into trouble -- of her own volition, might I add -- there is no true sense of catharsis as the ending scene cuts short what may have been. It is that ending that makes the movie a rounded character study that is rather indulgent with human foible.

World premiere screening at the 22nd Busan International Film Festival on October 16 at the CVG Centum City Chef A theater as part of the Cinema Today - Vision programming.

"Park Hwa-young" is the story of an abandoned eighteen-year-old girl with a circle of friends whose behavior doesn't actually qualify them as friends in spite of the fact that Park Hwa-young goes out of her way to care for them. Even the girl who is a self-professed devoted confident, Mi-jeong, is, in actuality, no kind of friend to Park Hwa-young. What ties the two together is Mi-jeong's selfishness and Hwa-young's need to be needed, which precludes the homoerotic undertones of their relationship.

Told in stark flashback, Park Hwa-young's tale is one of a young woman who spirals downwards. Her past very clearly defines her present as she suffers through a series of humiliation at the hands of her friends despite the fact that they call her " mama, " a word that implies closeness and a touch of deference. It's very use magnifies the situations in which Hwa-young finds herself, ones where she covets and begs for attention, any sort of attention; situations in which she is treated with no respect. This character has an ability to convince herself that her sacrifices for her friends, especially for Mi-young, are in the name of friendship. This is very much not the case.

"Park Hwa-young" solidly fits within the confines of the indie genre (that BIFF promoted heavily this year) with its indulgent shots, subdued color palette, and violent swings at the boundaries of human propriety. It is the cursing, violence, and the sexuality that makes the film a difficult watch as director Lee Hwan explores the darker side of people through this circle of young "friends". Young-je, the self-proclaimed head of the group, is consumed with a desire for power that manifests in his violent behavior and sexual domination of two of the female characters. He revels in the pain he inflicts and he very often indulges in torturing Hwa-young who he feels spends too much time with his girlfriend, Mi-jeong. Hwa-young constantly neglects her own safety for Mi-jeong who cares only for her own well-being.

Each of the members of the circle of "friends" is a caricature of a person. Rather than have varied personalities, these characters personify human flaws. Mi-jeong is selfishness; Young-je is violence; Hwa-young is neediness. These caricatures persist to the end and I must use the word "indulgent" again. Whilst beautifully filmed and superbly acted, especially on the part of leading lady, Kim Ga-hee-I, the film indulges in tropes and excessive constants of poor behavior, which make it difficult to truly enjoy.

Written by: Lisa Espinosa AKA Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'

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