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[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Slug"

2021/03/12

The thought of being able to meet your young self and giving advice for the mistakes made is something many people frequent consider, in a line of thinking occasionally deriving from guilt and a need for second chances. Choi Jin-young-III, in her debut, deals with this concept through a rather unusual narrative.

"The Slug" screened at Osaka Asian Film Festival

Choon-hee is a 30-something woman, who lives in her family's house, and has a rather lackluster life, with almost no friends, no boyfriend, and barely making a living selling cloves of garlic to restaurants. Through flashbacks, we learn that she actually moved to the place back in 1998, after her parents' death, but her relatives treated her more as a nuisance than an actual relative, making her live in a tiny room on the roof, and frequently accusing her of anything that went wrong with her lives. This led Choon-hee to an intense sentiment of loneliness, which was heightened even more by being regularly embarrassed over the excessive sweat caused by hyperhidrosis, which essentially made her a pariah even in her school.

In the present arc, things start to change when Choon-hee stumbles upon a homeless woman, meets a man who seems interested in her, Joo-hwang, and most of all, is stricken by lightning, an event that eventually results in her seeing and interacting with her young self in her house. As her situation starts looking better, she learns that her relatives are about to sell the house.

Choi Jin-young-III directs a movie that uses the concept mentioned in the prologue as the basis of her narrative, in order to present a number of social comments. The first and most obvious one focuses on how easily a person can become a loner, for reasons that are completely out of his/her hands, in this case the death of Choon-hee's parents and her physical condition. The character of the homeless woman seems to take this comment a step further, while through her, and the affection Choon-hee shares with Juh-hwang Choi seems to state that friendship and romance can be found even under the most extreme conditions, in an antithetical comments that tones down the overall dramatic premises of the movie.

The sudden appearance of her younger self also serves as a comment on the fact that Choon-hee cannot escape her past, although the director seems to place the blame completely on her family and her circumstances, and not at on her, which can be true in this case, but still emerges as somewhat one-sided. As a narrative tool, however, this aspect works excellently for a film that has very little going on, giving a very entertaining tone of surrealism, while allowing Choi to make her comments much more palpable, and share the back story of the protagonist more extensively.

Furthermore, this aspect benefits the most by the acting of both Kang Jin-ah and Park Hye-jin-III, whose difference in attitude and overall demeanor creates an excellent antithesis that carries the film for a large part of its duration. Furthermore, the few moments that show palpable tension, including fights among the members of the family, are excellently portrayed, highlighting the acting aspect even more.

Roh Da-hae's cinematography captures the realistically dramatic premises of the narrative excellently, without any particular exaltation, while the way the attic is shot excellently communicates the sense of both claustrophobia and a dead end  that permeates the protagonist's life. Choi's own editing follows the rules of the indie drama, with her implementing a relatively slow pace, although the well-placed flashbacks give the film a much-needed sense of movement.

"The Slug" may lack impact, but in general emerges as a movie that communicates its comments rather nicely, while the optimistic finale provides a very fitting ending to a story essentially revolving around those people whom society considers losers.

Review by Panos Kotzathanasis

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"The Slug" is directed by Choi Jin-young-III, and features Kang Jin-ah, Park Hye-jin-III, Hong Sang-pyo, Byun Joong-hee, Kim Geum-soon, Im Ho-joon. No release date in Korea yet.

 

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