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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Special - The Crying Woman"

2014/03/09 | Permalink

Yeon-sim (played by Kim Yoo-jung) is a young girl who becomes fixated on the idea of becoming a gisaeng. Gisaengs are traditional Korean courtesans, and while there are obvious reasons why a person living in Joseon times would want to get involved in the profession, at the same time, it's not exactly a respectable line of work to get into. Yeon-sim faces numerous setbacks from people who don't think she should be tossing away her life like this.

"Drama Special - The Crying Woman" aims to answer the question of why Yeon-sim is so determined. Now, mild spoilers right here- Yeon-sim does not want to be a courtesan out of some anachronistic desire for sexual expression. Nor is it a matter of her just being rebelliously adolescent, though at times it does seem like this is the case. Her motivation is highly wrapped up in her sense of identity, and it only really becomes clear what that identity is when Yeon-sim starts crying.

I can't do justice what Kim Yoo-jung does with the role here using mere words. To really understand what Yeon-sim is trying to do, you have to hear her cry. I don't mean crying like in the sobbing sense- well, yes I do actually. Technically she's singing, but the sound Kim Yoo-jung makes is astonishingly plaintive. It hints at a sense of personal tragedy that belies Yeon-sim's apparently young age. There's a maturity in this mourning sound that almost feels unearthly.

And yet at the same time the extremity in her expression feels a bit overwrought. Yes, Yeon-sim, and the various people in her life have all had a rough time. But it's nothing that serious. For the most part these are obstacles that can be overcome, difficulties that people can, do, and have recovered from. And yet listening to Yeon-sim makes those wailing noises, that pathos becomes an inescapable force. Yeon-sim creates this reminder of what it means to struggle in life. It's her gift.

But why does she want to express it so badly? Well, for that much information you'll have to watch the drama to find out. The ultimate cause and feeling of Yeon-sim's sense of personal expression is lively and beautiful. Kim Yoo-jung puts in a wondrous performance here as a young woman using the tools at her disposable to get what she wants, even if that seems less than ideal, because of the importance of these feelings to her sense of self. This works to make "Drama Special - The Crying Woman" a simple, heartful story that transcends time, even as we're so clearly stuck in the trapping of the costume drama.

Review by William Schwartz

"Drama Special - The Crying Woman" is directed by Lee Eun-jin, written by Heo Ji-yeong and features Kim Yoo-jung, Seo Jun-young and Hwang Mi-seon.

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