On a rural farm in the middle of nowhere, a somewhat fortunate situation arises. A teenage girl (played by Ahn Ji-hye-I) has fallen pregnant. That's...not really a fortunate situation, except that the girl and her mother (played by Kil Hae-yeon) are stuck in rural poverty and the mother has struck up a deal with an urban couple (played by Yoon Da-kyung and Kim Kyung-ik) by which the urbanites can procure the child they so desperately want to raise and the mother and daughter will get the money they need to make a new start somewhere else.
Initially it seems like the prospective adoptive mother is going to be the focus character, having rather mysteriously decided to stay on the farm for the latter part of the pregnancy so as to pretend like she gave birth overseas. But after several intriguing scenes she slips into the background as her motivation is revealed to be quite simple. The woman just wants a baby. Her reasons for wanting a baby in such a weirdly specific way are actually fairly well-justified emotionally, but rather tellingly, she reveals her reasons not for the sake of closer emotional intimacy, but to help deliver a thinly veiled threat.
"In Her Place" is about personal consideration. The two adult women characters think they're being thoughtful and considerate by crafting such a mutually beneficial plan, but what they both fail to realize is that the teenage mother-to-be is actually kind of depressed. Teenage girls who feel the need to have secret forbidden boyfriends usually are, and yet the two adult women show disturbingly little mothering instinct.
The result is a very slow burn toward tragedy, where the surviving characters very meekly wonder what they could have possibly done differently. "In Her Place" is a harsh reminder that you can live in the same general abode as another person and still not really understand anything about what's going on with them emotionally. Hence the title. "In Her Place", what would you have done differently?
Well, I know what I would have done differently- give the characters names. "In Her Place" is an entirely personality-focused character study, and not having names to refer to just makes the movie unnecessarily difficult to discuss. Now, debatedly we could interpret this as a commentary on the nature of personal identity. Given that the climax hinges on how the adult women increasingly treat the girl as a vassal rather than a person, the lack of names is somewhat appropriate. To them this is only a bumpy stop on the road of life.
But to the girl? Pregnancy is an isolating enfeebling process, and it's happening in the most formative years of her life. That's a surprisingly easy fact for women to forget- even women who have already gone through pregnancies themselves, because they had the luxury of doing so with a real support network. In this way "In Her Place" is a story of prepartum depression. It's about women who dream for the sky while the girl on whom all their future hopes depend wishes she had never dreamt at all. Poignant stuff.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "In Her Place""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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