Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 28th, 2015
BluRay released: April 13th, 2015
Approximate running time: 113 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen /1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Korean
BluRay Release: Third Window Films
Region Coding: Region B (UK)
Retail Price: £19.99 (UK)
Though this film has all the ingredients one would expect from a Korean drama, the end result it actually a film that goes against the grain in regards to its contemporaries. Sure it follows the all too familiar narrative structure where moments in the present are interspersed with flashback moments that help in the blanks. And in the case of said flashbacks for this film at least their arrival in the narrative is not as jarring as they far too often are in most Korean dramas. In fact the flashbacks in this film usually are preceded by a moment in the present where the protagonist is put in a situation where she feels uncomfortable and thus she remembers back to the event which set her whole exile in motion.
Also where the majority of Korean drama’s focus on a core of characters to drive said narrative. That is not the case for this film which follows on central character, a young woman named Han Gong-ju. And while there are some advantages to having multiple characters to propel a film’s narrative along. This film use of singular point of view actually makes the story at hand all the more potent.
When it comes to subject matter Korean cinema is one of the forerunners in the world of cinema today. No subject is off limits and when they do explore said subject matter. And the inspiration for Han Gong-ju was based on Miryang gang rape case of 2004.
And in regards to Han Gong-ju’s depiction of rape and its aftermath. This film presents its most brutal moment, the scene of crime in such an unflinching way that said moment resonates long after its protagonist moment of truth have faded off the screen.
From a production stand point though the opening sequence where the protagonist is introduced comes off as feeling rushed. There is a reason for this as that scene represents the chaos that has just engulfed her life. From there things tend to move at a deliberate pace that some viewers many find challenging. Fortunately by the middle act things the film hit’s its stride and things are smooth sailing from then on out.
Performance wise the entire cast are very good in their respective roles with this film’s anchor being it’s leading lady Chun Woo-Hee (Mother) in the role of this film’s protagonist Han Gong-ju. Don’t left her subdued performance fool you as she totally submerges herself into the role. She creates an utterly convincing character and the end result is a performance that is extraordinary. Also not surprising that she would go onto win several awards for her performance in this film. Another performance of note is Lee Young-Ran (Love Exposure) in the role of Ms. Lee, her son was Han Gong-ju’s former teacher. It is also her son who convinces her to let Han Gong-ju stay with her until things clam down.
Han Gong-ju comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Colors and flesh tones look accurate and details look crisp. Black levels and shadow detail generally look good with a handful of moments where things could have been stronger. There are no issues with compression and DNR is kept in check.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD 5.1 Korean and removable English subtitles have been provided with this release. Though this film is given a 5.1 mix, it is a dialog driven film that presents the bulk of the action front and center in the mix. Dialog always comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. And when it comes to the more ambient aspects of the sound things are well represented.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (1 minute 4 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in Korean with English subtitles) and a short film also directed by Lee Su-Jin titled ‘Enemy’s Apple’ (21 minutes 7 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in Korean with English subtitles).
Enemy’s Apple: The police are brought in the remove protestors and a riot ensues. From there the bulk of this short revolves around a policeman who has a protestor cornered in an alley. And as this narrative continues to unfold each man refuses to stand down from the other. Of course this leads to further acts of violence against each other. Which ultimately leaves both characters out of breath on ground when all is said and done.
Overall Han Gong-ju gets a first rate release from Third Windows.
Note: This film is also being released by Third Window Films on DVD.