Cheon-ji (played by Kim Hwang-ki) is a middle school student, who lives with her mother and older sister. Cheon-ji is in that awkward period of life where everything around her seems to be changing but Cheon-ji, personally, has no idea what to do and is feeling very ambivalent, often even hostile to the people who appear interested in being her friend. Given the way events play out, it's hard to fault her for this. Then Cheon-ji goes and kills herself.
...That last sentence kind of came out of nowhere didn't it? One of the taglines for most suicide prevention groups is that it can happen to anyone, even someone who's apparently doing very well in life. "Thread of Lies" is an elaborate anatomy of how something like this can happen. How does a middle school girl, with no serious problems in her life, suddenly come to the conclusion that suicide is the answer?
To be clear, the film is not a mystery. Even though Cheon-ji dies only a few scenes in, her presence is constant. Director Lee Han deliberately transitions from the present day to flashbacks so abruptly, it's often hard to tell whether we're in the present or the past until Cheon-ji actually shows up. It's a compelling mirror that exposes how for the most part, life still goes on as normal after Cheon-ji's death. Her mom works, her sister goes to school, and while they certainly want to know why Cheon-ji acted as she did, and in many cases feel horribly guilty, they still grope after the bitter humor in life.
The jokes in "Thread of Lies" aren't exactly elevating- it's just simple everyday life sutff, with the occassional person in the neighborhood who's a colorful character. As well as the ones who, even before the suicide happened, nobody in this household ever wanted to see again. Everybody just fumbles day by day as normal, inevitably finding scattered fragments that give some explanation as to Cheon-ji's beliefs in her final moments.
Ironically, the decision Cheon-ji makes is one based on logic and reason- she understands what suicide is and what it can do, but as an undeveloped young adult, Cheon-ji doesn't understand the ultimate implications of her choice. "Thread of Lies" makes it all too clear what those ultimate implications are, and inevitably, the question comes up, what would Cheon-ji think, if she could see this movie? What would any young adult in her situation think, and how might that changes the way they look at the idea of suicide as an answer?
Suicide seems easy enough to understand. It's a bad thing and we shouldn't do it. But where "Thread of Lies" truly becomes compelling and heartbreaking is the way it makes us see events from Cheon-ji's point of view. It makes her decision a sympathetic one- a horribly wrong decision, but still a sympathetic one. And that's what gives the ending so much emotional power, is realizing just how little rage or anger was actually involved in anything that happened.
The final imaginitive subtle transition cut is profound, touching, and ultimately all too tragic taking in the reality of these events. It's realizing all we can do is communicate as much as we can while we still can, and make sure the other person has a chance to respond. Because with suicide, there are no beautiful goodbyes, only the faint hope of trying to recover from tragedy by latching on to those last faint glimmers of love.
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] "Thread of Lies""
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