Lee Young-ae is one of the most understated and underappreciated actors working in the international film industry today. Where her acclaimed Lady Vengeance role originally marked her as an actor to keenly watch, she slowly disappeared from more well-versed directorial projects to some more commercial domestic based work. This isn’t a bad thing, largely due to her clear dedication to charity work and other philanthropic events. Her achievements in the last two decades alone, make up for the lack of a bonafide portfolio. Though at a certain point, it seemed as though she wouldn’t return back to the silver screen.
There’s always a little light at the end of the tunnel. After a long hiatus, she returned back to the film and television stage in the mid-2010s. This resulted in a film that fans of Young-ae have been eagerly anticipating; a film titled Bring Me Home. After the long wait, it gives me great satisfaction to announce that not only is her latest feature an invigorating thriller of magnetic proportions, but also a rather enjoyable class critique amidst its central chaotic kidnapping narrative. A film about the power of greed and the abuse of social rankings and class hierarchy, Kim Seung-woo’s debut is a determined and steadfast feature with a breakneck pace.
Commencing immediately in the tail end of a six-year search for a lost child, the film follows Jung-yeo, a determined mother set against the powers of adversity and scheming individuals. Her goal? To find her lost son, who mysteriously disappeared one brisk evening, out of the blue. The film begins ambiguously regarding the film’s abduction background, to prevent the audience from picking any direct sides at the start. Seung-woo’s intent is to create a sense of perplexity, for the audience to either trust or question our lead heroine in her journey of self-actualization. It’s unfortunate, however, how quickly the ambiguity and mysterious atmosphere is dumped in favor of some more predictable crime-drama tropes. In where the central point of view of our lead hero is essential to the developing narrative, Bring Me Home pretty much spoils the antagonists of its simplistic story right from the get-go.
All tension surrounding the shrouded cloud of doubt is immediately let go. It’s as if the film doesn’t understand that the most crucial element to any good kidnapping mystery, is to remain consistent with the cast of characters. Crime is messy, though once you dabble into too many players per scenario, the end result can often be incredibly underwhelming. On the other hand, the film’s greatest aspects lie in its commentary, which swiftly saves the more underdeveloped and shoddy attempts at perspective. Manipulative family members, extortion, and corrupt officers of the law, Bring Me Home paints a shockingly accurate rendition of our current capitalist society with the constant pursuit of greed, reputation, and self-fulfillment. It’s a deeply nihilistic film about lost souls, some trapped, and some faced with the burden of life and death itself. But more relevantly, it’s a film about desperation and ignorance. A notable image in the movie of a lost dog PSA pasted over a lost child poster on a street post is a particularly effective visual amalgamation of the film’s themes.
An ambitious debut that trips on a few shortcomings, Bring Me Home is an exhilarating thriller with enough depth and voice behind and in front of the camera. A recommendation-worthy feature with an electric lead-performance from the always radiant Lee Young-ae, this flawed film is an accessible piece of crime genre filmmaking, even with its more sloppy and intense moments of sporadic violence. Rough on the edges, though well-intended in principle, Bring Me Home delivers enough twisty and relevant plot-threads to keep its sturdy drama afloat.
Dir: Kim Seung-woo
Scr: Kim Seung-woo
Cast: Lee Young-ae, Yoo Chea-myung, Park Hae-jun, Lee Won-keun
Country: South Korea
Run time: 108 minutes
Bring Me Home screened digitally at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival, as part of the festival’s official selection. The film is currently seeking UK distribution, with FINECUT handling worldwide sales.