Nobody's Daughter Haewon (4 stars)

Nobody's Daughter Haewon

A subtle and fragile work from South Korean filmmaker Hong Sangsoo

In Hong Sangsoo’s latest film he moves away from the concept of foreign estrangement, as explored in 2012’s In Another Country, and instead focuses on issues closer to home, examining the cultural impact of rapid urbanization in South Korea. Sangsoo is clearly more comfortable in this territory; Nobody's Daughter Haewon is more sophisticated, fluid and engaged with the theme of loneliness than his previous work, elegantly weaving historical, psychological and sociological contexts into an expertly minimalist cinematic tapestry.

Much like In Another Country, the film centres on a film student, Haewon (Jeong Eun-chae), who, after the departure of her disassociated mother to Canada, falls into a quiet malaise. Feeling lonely and isolated, she seeks the company and intimacy of an elderly married professor and filmmaker (Lee Seon-gyun), setting in motion a series of clandestine meetings and interactions between two emotionally destitute souls. As they search for meaning in their love affair, both come to realize that in life one ultimately lives and dies alone; this realization creates a base in which not only the character’s futility and predicament are revealed but that of an entire society, a society which has seemingly lost touch with its tradition and history.

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon is the Korean answer to Wong Kar Wai's Chunking Express, a moving statement of a country’s people separated by the times. However, instead of creating meaning and expression through cinematic beauty and colours, Sangsoo opts to place his vision beneath the surface, where his allusions and implications are allowed to diffuse sublimely amongst the rippling tensions that he deftly orchestrates.

Sangsoo forces too much blunt persuasion with his camera for this film to be a true modern showpiece of Asian cinema. He does however create a subtle and fragile work, one which implies a great deal more than it explicates, and in doing so he succeeds in creating a work that is both rich and thought provoking,

Limited release from Fri 11 Oct.

TRAILER: Nobody's Daughter Haewon

Nobody's Daughter Haewon

  • 4 stars
  • 2013
  • South Korea
  • 1h 30min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Sang-soo Hong
  • Cast: Jeong Eun-Chae, Seon-gyun Lee, Joon-sang Yoo
  • UK release: 11 October 2013

Lonely film student Haewon (Jung Eunchae) seeks the company of an elderly married professor and filmmaker (Lee Sun-kyun), and their ensuing relationship brings them to difficult realisations about themselves. Expertly minimalist and thought-provoking portrait of South Korean society, rich with allusion and context.