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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Another Family"

2014/01/25 | 790 views | Permalink

Sang-goo (played by Park Chul-min) is an unremarkable man with an unremarkable family. Given their rather average circumstances in life, it naturally becomes a big deal when eldest daughter Yoon-mi (played by Park Hee-jung) is hired by a big conglomerate. In South Korea these are the best jobs a recent graduate can possibly hope for, mainly because conglomerates offer high salary and benefits compared to other entry level jobs. Those readers living in countries where large corporations have a rather different reputation may have trouble relating.

But never mind the relative benefits of job-hunting between nations- that's not what this movie is about anyway. At one point Yoon-mi becomes sick- leukemia, the doctors say. How, exactly, does a healthy woman in her early twenties manage to contract leukemia? Might it have something to do with the fact Yoon-mi's golden job opportunity involved working with hazardous materials and she was required to wear a hazmat suit every day?

No, says the Jinsung corporation, of course not. But spurred on by his daughter's dying wish, Sang-goo keeps investigating. He finds a lawyer, he finds other families who have suffered from suspiciously early cases of leukemia. In exchange for the prestige of a Jinsung job, the company expects loyalty from those people fortunate enough to have been blessed by the benign hand of a corporation. And so the fight wages on- while it quickly becomes obvious that the Jinsung job is related to the leukemia cases, evidence is hard to come by when everyone with a chance to find it keeps being offered devil's bargains.

"Another Family" is an introspective film. This is a story about people choosing to either do what's best for themselves (by holding on to the Jinsung connection), or what's best for greater morality (exposing the evidence Jinsung is hiding). There are so many characters going through this dilemma that there's not really much depth with any individual character. Everyone is just a normal person looking out for their immediate interests.

Naturally, Sang-goo is by far the most sympathetic of these. Whereas most of the people in this movie are looking out for money and pretige, Sang-goo just wants to do what's best for his daughter, and is unwilling to let her death have been for nothing. It's this element of love that comes off the most convincingly, mainly because it naturally leads him to helping other people. Everyone else's choices, while understandable, are almost mechanical in logic. It would seem that it's much easier for people to justify mathematical rationales if they suppress as their empathy as humanly possible.

Consequently, "Another Family" isn't new ground exactly. This is a film that wears its emotional heart and political agenda on its sleeve. Koreans are likely well aware of the actual case this film's story is based off of, involving a Samsung semiconductor plant. It's a troublesome news story that deserves public attention, even if, ironically enough, the movie had trouble getting financial backing, ultimately having to rely on crowdsourcing. For that crowd, this was money well spent. "Another Family" is a powerful story about the choices and negotiations we need to make as humans. It's not a terribly innovative one, but then again, it doesn't need to be. At least not until problems like this stop happening.

Review by William Schwartz

"Another Family" is directed by Kim Tae-yoon and features Park Chul-min, Yoon Yoo-sun, Kim Gyu-ri and Park Hee-jung

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