The 57th BFI London Film Festival: Nobody’s Daughter Haewon

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon written and directed by South Korean Hong Sang-Soo, tells the story of the enigmatic, eye-catching film student and aspiring actress Haewon ( superb performance by Jung Eun- Chae), who easily attracts men and makes fellow female colleagues jealous. The narrative is told in a diary format and chronicles a few days in Haewon’s life.

Haewon’s mother (Kim Ja-ok) decides to leave for Canada to live with her son. Haewon, in her loneliness and growing depression, rekindles a hopeless affair with her married professor from acting school, director Seongjung Lee (Lee Sun-Kyun), in the hope of having a better life. The accidental meeting with French star Jean Birkin gives her some short-lived happiness. However, most of the time, she seems to be absent, she often falls asleep on school benches and in the college library. In her dreams she fantasizes about an ideal life. Nevertheless when she is awake she continues being absent- minded and slightly withdrawn from social life. Her emontinally complicated relationship with a pathetically funny director is definitely the core of the film story. Apart from experiencing the girl’s struggle it is also important to mention the prefossor’s emontional battle with himself, and his feelings towards Haewon. His decision making whether to stay with his wife or carry on with the romance also adds a little tension to the film. While observing Haewon’s daily life we come to notice a few stubs of cigarettes on the ground, first thrown by a young man who is interested in a tall beauty, and the second one is found when Haewon and Seongjung stroll around the square. Both gestures are accentuated by the camera’s zoom. I think that Haewon in Sand-Soo’s film is similar to the end of the unfinished cigarette, she slowly and emontinally burns out with everything that’s happening around her.

nobody's daughter 01

Sang-soo’s style isn’t hard to miss. Similiar to his previous work he uses simple composition and avoids cuts and changes to the montage. He sparingly uses the zoom, he will wait for the ‘perfect moment’ and only uses it when he desires to capture the characters’ facial expressions. The director shot his film in the most ordinary place in Seoul: Seochon West Village district, in the park, square and in cosy looking cafes. Nobody’s Daughter Haewon is filled with subtle and, sometimes, humerous scenes. The film is well balanced when it comes to the characters of Haewon and Lee. With down to earth cinematography by Kim Hyeong-goo and Park Hong-yeol and Jeong Yong-jin’s music I found the drama engaging. Nobody’s Daughter Haewon may cause few tears here and there but it will also put a smile on your face. The film had its World Premiere at the 63rd Berlin Film Festival.

Written by Maggie Gogler.

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