TEACHER STUDENT RELATIONSHIP
Idealistic Haewon (Jung Eunchae) desperately wants to abscond from a life in which she is simply “just living” day to day in her isolated village on the edge of Seoul, South Korea. Following her mother’s move to Canada in the hope of starting anew, Haewon is left seemingly stranded and alone – still seeking her own opportunity to escape normality into a life of fame and adulation. Haewon’s newfound loneliness encourages her to reignite an affair with an older married professor who worships the ground upon which the ‘very pretty’ (a characteristic which is repeatedly cited by her acquaintances and suitors) film student and aspiring actress walks. It is this relationship which director Hang Sang-soo places at the forefront of his narrative – voyeuristically dissecting the pair’s often confused yet compelling interactions with one another.
The story is retrospectively narrated by Haewon as if it were an everyday diary entry or journal passage. We follow her through bizarre dream sequences, a final afternoon with her outspoken mother, and awkward meals with her scornful peers and secret lover. Through such events we witness the varying opinions of Haewon; to some she is revered, an object of desire, to others an “aristocratic” show-off, but ultimately she is always the driving force of the story whether present or not.
Nobody’s Daughter Haewon is director Hang Sang-soo’s first release to boast a major UK release, and the reasoning behind such mainstream anonymity – despite being a major presence upon the festival scene – is evident from the outset. In both style and content the director’s work is extremely colloquial. It is difficult to fully appreciate the connotations behind specific terminology, and the subtle commentary upon social circles can prove awkward to translate to a western audience; a western audience who will most likely take a much dimmer and less light-hearted view of the self-centered nature of the film’s characters.
Despite the initial learning curve, Nobody’s Daughter Haewon remains an alluring and often picturesque piece of world cinema which draws you in deeper to Haewon and Seongjun’s relationship with every passing guilty admission. Stylistic embellishments such as exaggerated camera zooms and cutaways dwelling upon the most mundane of items and moments – imbuing them with a undeserved importance – reinforce the playful and quirky tone, whilst ensuring the perceived mundanity of Haewon’s life doesn’t spread to the viewing experience. Nobody’s Daughter Haewon may struggle to steal your attention from more high-profile Asian cinema releases but once you have been introduced to its many charms, this dairy of one young woman’s journey will become a book you can’t put down.