Suicide, particularly that of Korea's youth, is a troubling thread woven deep into the South's cinema; a zealous zeitgeist of modern Korean cinema that reflects a troubling truth. This sensitive (and statistically significant) subject matter has been present in a remarkable number of modern films, and earlier this year director Lee Han treated us to perhaps the most cathartic and cinematic daydream of suicide and bullying this side of the Korean wave.
The film's richness can be traced to its popular literary roots. Like Lee's coming-of-age drama "Punch" (2011), "Thread of Lies" (2014) owes its conception to the acclaimed mind of native novelist Kim Ryeo-ryeong, who, along with film's screenwriter Lee Sook-yeon ("The Sword with No Name", "April Snow"), must be credited with plotting and penning such a pertinent and passionate tale. It was on this fine foundation that Lee and the rest of his team added the cine-magic, the drama of depiction, and the results were, once again, stirring.
Man-ji's reserved and thoughtful little sister Cheon-ji has taken her own life. She choose to hang herself with a red scarf she was knitting and her older sister and mother are now left devastated and confused. This bright young soul seemed incurably intoxicated with a rare form of innocence, but found the world wicked enough to flee from, why? After being ejected from their family apartment, this tragic mother-daughter duo moves into a smaller place and confront the depressive aftermath of the incident. Life, as the two of them once knew, will never be the same again, but it will endure.
Both Man-ji (Go Ah-sung) and her mother (Hyeon-sook played by Kim Hee-ae) are incredibly strong characters, grounded; tough as the tears they shed. Man-ji meets a group of her sister's classmates and tries to discover what she can about her little sister's school life. She suspects, then soon discovers, that Cheon-ji was being mocked and marginalised at school, bullied into believing that her life isn't worth it. Hyeon-sook, meanwhile, is feeling the weight of having had to burry her own, but still manages to keep smiling at her sterile supermarket job despite the depression she's suffering through. Together this troubled team discover truths about Cheon-ji's cruel circumstances and learn to support and appreciate each other as we all slowly move through new memories of the life she left behind.
"Thread of Lies" makes use of a dreamy narrative to flashback and forward in time allowing us, along with our two heroines, to piece together the circumstances that led the tragedy. We see no funeral, no ambulance collecting the corpse or cold lips, and Lee even takes his time teasing out the exact manner of Cheon-ji's molestation. What he does reveal is moving moments in time, pieces of the past fused with the present that are aimed at a forgiving future; one where both Man-ji and Hyeon-sook are free to live on and in love.
Despite the sincerity and dramatic delight of the film's story and structure, it was the film's technical brilliance that would eventually come steal the show. The film's young talents spearheaded this movement and showcased a maturity that was reassuringly real, and Kim Hee-ae's character seemed to possess some ethereal understanding of motherhood and grief itself. "Thread of Lies" was also studded with juicy juxtapositions, devilish mise-en-scene arrangements, and curious compositions were all woven into the film's 117 minutes of mindful melodrama; evidence of the film's artfulness and the story's successful transition from Kim's written word to Lee's cinematic dreamscape. It's well balanced, complex, and beautifully realised; a powerful story well told that shouldn't be missed.
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