In a small Korean town, a police officer, Kim Hyun-ju (Lee Jeong-eun: Parasite, Hommage), alongside her partner, are called to a hospital to check on two sisters with one being severely injured and unconscious. We quickly learn that one of the siblings is called Do-kyung (Jung Ryeowon: Castaway on the Moon, Wok of Love, Gate), and the moment Hyun-ju arrives at the hospital, she meets with the young woman. In a state of shock and disbelief, while also covered in bruises and cuts, Do-kyung tries to explain the incident. But instead of a reasonable statement, she mumbles a few words here and there, insisting that she wants to see her injured sister, Mi-kyung (Jang Jin-hee: Extreme Job, Between the Seasons). Concerned for her well-being, Hyun-ju reassures Do-kyung that she shouldn’t worry about anything and that she will be well taken care of. 

Image Courtesy of the London Film Festival

Do-kyun finally agrees for a nurse to attend to her wounds and to speak to Hyun-jin one more time. This time, she confesses that a violent incident happened at home, and the person who instigated the attack was Mi-kyun’s fiancé. Her recollection of the events becomes questionable when Hyun Ju and her partner discover that the hospitalised Mi-kyung is not actually the real Mi-kyun. We are presented with two main questions: where is Do-kyun’s sister and who is the injured woman? 

Image Courtesy of the London Film Festival

The more Hyun-ju investigates the case, the more she realises that Do-kyun’s story doesn’t add up, and when things finally start to unravel, new information comes along. Christine Ko’s ability to build tension is impeccable. The smooth movements of the camera and the visual presentation of different perspectives showcase Ko’s talent in building a great, suspenseful narrative through technical and artistic elements. The ubiquitous threat awaiting in every corner is also very reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock. And while Do-kyung has her own story to tell, Hyun-ju’s past starts resurfacing as well. Together, the women quickly build a bond that will change the course of the film’s events. 

Image Courtesy of the London Film Festival

Underlining the authenticity and credibility of the characters, the performances of Jung Ryeowon and Jung Jeong-eun’s instantly grab the viewers’ attention as they transform feelings into thoughts, words, and actions. Although the narrative is engaging, the acting and the film’s atmosphere are the strongest points of the production. 

Seo Ja-yeun’s script is sophisticated in its own right, and the subject of domestic violence is approached appropriately without being overdramatised. In spite of the fact that The Woman in the White Car is Seo (writing) and Ko’s (directing) feature debut, the two created a winding thriller that rivals Nordic Noir films. 

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Written by Maggie Gogler

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Asian Cinema, BFI London Film Festival, Film, Film events and festivals, Foreign Films, General, Korean Cinema

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