Moon-young (played by Kim Tae-ri, the underappreciated actual female lead in "The Handmaiden") is a taciturn student who compulsively records nearly every moment she spends outdoors. Why Moon-young acts in such a peculiar manner is the main mystery of "Moon Young", although the minimalist nature of the production is such that the answers offered are, by design, unimpressive. The film closes out with a surprise encounter on the subway that is, more than anything else, rather ominous.
In general I like to think of Moon-young as sort of the ultimate left behind. She's so horribly withdrawn from everything that it takes a series of aggressive encounters with the overly emotional Hee-soo (played by Jung Hyun) in order to get Moon-young to relay even the slightest relevant information about her personal life. Incidentally, Hee-soo is a story in and of herself. She seems half-crazy, but who else except a half-crazy person would continue to pursue Moon-young after all the student's general external hostility?
It doesn't help that even when Hee-soo is well-meaning she tends to pretty clueless about exactly why Moon-young is so shockingly hostile to the world around her. Moon-young's father (played by Park Wan-kyu-I) is another interesting exercise in that prompt. Technically he's just a standard cliché- the abusive lower class alcoholic jerk. Yet seen through Moon-young's eyes, her father is more pathetic than threatening. His behavior follows a predictable unchanging pattern, and Moon-young has long since learned that the best way to deal with him is by being evasive.
That's where the recording comes in, since it's a safe way for Moon-young to view the outside world. Yet what exactly is she viewing? The objective reality that Moon-young records is just as hopelessly cyclical as Moon-young's dad. Even Hee-soo, another alleged adult, is completely incapable of understanding the most basic patterns of her own life. So how exactly is hee-soo supposed to be much help to Moon-young?
For all this apparent cynicism, "Moon Young" is surprisingly optimistic as a final product. The more Moon-young forces herself or is forced by others to interact with the outside world, the better she is at being aggressive aggressive instead of passive aggressive. While not necessarily an obvious improvement, "Moon Young" is more the first chapter of Moon-young's life story, the one that marks her awakening to her true identity, than it is a full-on coming of age story.
This being by necessity because let's face it. Coming of age stories are an artifical narrative construct. A person with an abusive parent does not "grow up" through a single decisive action built up to from the earlier parts of the story. No, the big decisions are small ones, borne out of a lifetime of little indignities, that mark a new path. For Moon-young, that means finally being able to admit that she needs people- and can only hope they reciprocate those feelings of inadequacy.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Moon Young""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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