Review: Gyeong-ah’s Daughter

Written and directed by Kim Jung-eun, Gyeong Ah works as a caregiver and lives alone. The only one she can rely on is her daughter, Yeon Soo, but they barely meet after Yeon Soo moved out. One night, Gyeong Ah receives a shocking message from a stranger. Starring: Kim Jeong-yeong and Ha Yoon-kyung.

The subject of digital sex crimes is on the rise because sadly it’s just too easy for private content to be shared maliciously far and wide, Gyeong-ah’s Daughter gives us another example of that. It also dives straight into how judgemental and conservative society can be in South Korea. While the resulting emotional damage from sharing images and videos of a sexual nature without permission does takes the lead, it simultaneously demonstrates why victims are unlikely to come forward. Starting with the closed-mindedness when it comes to sexuality which quickly leads to victim blaming. Meaning that not only does the person have themselves exposed to countless random strangers on the internet, their own friends and family can potentially turn against them. Leaving them completely isolated and Kim Jung-eun keenly captures that loneliness and hopelessness with Yeon Soo (Ha Yoon-kyung). It’s a palpable atmosphere of despair, which is only intensified by the fractured relationship between Yeon and her mother Gyeong Ah(Kim Jeong-yeong).

It’s easily and quickly established what type of relationship that they have, following a classic pattern of a parent who simply can’t let go. One that can’t quite bear to see their child as an adult or someone who doesn’t need them, which only ends up pushing them away. It creates a great deal of friction and secrets between them but the film never forgets the core connection beneath those issues. Their relationship might be problematic but they are still mother and daughter, and there’s an underlying sweetness to them. It helps to create a great balance with the different themes of the film, making it relatable and hugely sympathetic, as well as having a more intensely dramatic edge. Approaching a story like this, the key is always keeping things realistic and Kim Jung-eun certainly achieves that. Her direction holds an air that envelops you into this story, it’s not overt or loud in its style, yet it has almost a thriller vein to how it moves.

Exploring the relationship between Kim Jeong-yeong and Ha Yoon-kyung’s characters opens up a great deal of layers for them to then look inwards at their lives and the choices they’ve made. In doing so it allows these two wonderful actresses to really dig deep and pull out a barrage of emotion. They both feel very familiar in their personalities, in the sense that they’re created with a sincerely natural style. Both of them bring a lot of vulnerability to the table, their struggles feel extremely authentic and are moving to watch unfold. They also don’t follow a conventional path, the film makes a few slightly different choices which work well. Allowing the film to end on its own terms, rather than simply handing the audience the answer they’re expecting.

Gyeong-ah’s Daughter is a compelling, poignant and complex story of both mother-daughter relationships and sexual assault. Kim Jeong-yeong and Ha Yoon-kyung give very different but equally moving performances, perfectly giving you the dual sides to the story. It has a superbly rich atmosphere, embracing the touch of darkness and intensity that grows as the film moves forward. Kim Jung-eun’s directorial and writing styles both easily get a firm grasp on the audience, pulling you in before you find yourself utterly enthralled.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯½ | 9/10

Reviewed as part of London Korean Film Festival | The 17th London Korean Film Festival 2022 runs from 3 November – 17 November in cinemas across London. For more info:

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