Do-il has just been discharged from the army and returns to his mother's house, where Sun-yeong, his bride to be, and their newborn baby is waiting for him. Despite the fact that he has trouble finding a job and his mother's almost constant nagging, Do-il seems to be happy. This happiness, however, is completely shattered when he learns that the child is not his own, and a bit later, Sun-yeong disappears. As he desperately tries to find her, he learns a number of things for her he did not have a clue about, while he also has to face the struggles of being a single father, a brother who insults and mocks him every chance he gets, and the truth about his mother.
Son Tae-gyum directs a film that deals with the experience of being a single parent, although his view on the matter is quite different from the usual one, since the single parent is a man, and the kid is not even his.
In his despair, Do-il cannot think of anything else than finding Sun-yeong, and his life starts looking like an odyssey, as he deals with her ex-boyfriends, her family, his brother who insists to give the baby for adoption, religion, and a number of other situations, all of which seem to make his situation worse. Son Tae-gyum makes an additional point of highlighting the fact that even the people closest to you can have secrets, as is the case with both Sun-yeong and his mother.
Despite the evident drama that permeates the film, as Do-il's situation seems to worsen continuously, the movie ends on a very optimistic note. Furthermore, his final decision seems like a "revolutionary" act, as he eventually ignores everyone around him and does what he thinks is the best.
Son Tae-gyum focused the film on Lee Yi-kyung, who plays Do-il, and he delivered in great fashion, as he portrays a desperate man, truly lost in a life that gets worse every day, making him doubt every single decision he has made in his life, from being with Sun-yeong, to leaving the army. Jung Yeon-joo as Sun-yeong has a smaller role, with her absence, actually, being more important than her presence. She has a highlight, though, in the scene that concludes the film.
Han Man-wook's cinematography does a fine job of portraying the various urban settings the film takes place in, usually in obscure colors that seem to fit the psychological state of the protagonist perfectly. Son Tae-gyum's editing retains the relatively fast pace of the film, without doing anything impressive, though.
"Baby Beside Me" is a very interesting film that presents a different take on a very serious issue, and a great specimen of contemporary S. Korean cinema, as it benefits the most from its direction and the protagonist's acting.
"Baby Beside Me"is screening at the Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian cinema, running from 7 to 14 February.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[Guest Film Review] "Baby Beside Me""
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