A Girl At My Door (4 stars)

A Girl At My Door

Smart South Korean crime drama marking the directorial debut of July Jung

July Jung's soulful, slow-burning debut feature brings a fresh perspective to what initially feels like overly familiar ingredients. Seoul cop Young-nam (Doona Bae) is reassigned to the very definition of a sleepy seaside backwater. Eccentric locals are set in their ways and regard her presence with suspicion and outright hostility. A sudden death occurs and, despite the official conclusion of a tragic accident, there is clearly more going on than meets the eye.

It sounds like the set-up for countless, assembly-line television thrillers but what distinguishes A Girl at My Door is the vulnerability of the central character, what it reveals about the prejudices of a close-knit society, and the shifting sands of moral certainty in a situation where the end is achieved by dubious means.

Bae (Cloud Atlas, The Host) portrays Young-nam with an appealing mixture of wan fragility and righteous determination. Lonely, isolated and overly fond of alcohol, she seems full of good intentions when she takes an interest in the welfare of shy teenage misfit Do-hee (Sae-ron Kim), a girl at the mercy of her boorish, abusive stepfather Yong-ha (Sae-byeok Song). Once we learn more of the reasons for Young-nam leaving Seoul, her growing attachment to the girl seems remarkably naive.

Song's one-note performance as the black-hearted Yong-ha is a flaw in a film that generally achieves a more thoughtful understanding of a complex situation. A Girl at My Door bravely steps into some disturbing territory as we are obliged to question the motives behind Young-nam's protective, maternal instincts and Do-hee's status as an innocent victim. It's an accomplished and intriguing work that marks Jung out as a talent to watch.

Selected release from Fri 18 Sep.

A Girl At My Door

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • South Korea
  • 1h 59min
  • 18
  • Directed by: July Jung
  • Written by: July Jung
  • Cast: Doona Bae, Hie-jin Jang, Sae-ron Kim
  • UK release: 4 September 2015

Young-nam (Bae), one of Korea’s top police graduates, is cited for misconduct and transferred to a sleepy seaside village where she takes in a young girl who is being abused by her grandfather and stepfather. This is a soulful, slow-burning debut feature from Jung; an accomplished and intriguing work that marks her out as…