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South Korea 2004


Lee Jeong-cheol

Joo Hyeon
Park Ji-bin
Park Hee-soon
Eom Tae-woong
Jeong Wook

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A Family

Story: Jeong-eun (Su-ae) is released from prison after some time she served. She has been sentenced for the third time already. Before this time she may only have been sentenced for stealing but now she even attacked someone with a knife. At home her father Ju-seok (Joo Hyeon) takes care of his five year old son Jeong-hwan (Park Ji-bin) on his own since his wife died. He isn't really happy about his daughter coming back home and he doesn't hide it either. But Jeong-eun reproaches her father with being responsible for that situation as well, since according to her opinion his drinking problems have driven her mother to death. Ju-seok's problems in the past, though, are because of having lost one eye during an accident which meant that he couldn't continue working as a policeman. His former job just makes it more difficult for him to see his daughter having gotten involved with the gangster boss Chang-won (Park Hee-soon) who believes that Jeong-eun has stolen money from him before she went to jail which he now wants to get back. Chang-won's ruthlessness makes him stop at nothing not even at Jeong-eun's family. The father-daughter relationship isn't especially good in the family but in order to overcome the crises the two finally have to talk things over.

Review: "A Family" is a drama that is pretty highly regarded among a lot of viewers and that's strange since the drama is in fact merely mediocre, apart from the good acting achievements that is. Moreover, we don't get to see anything we wouldn't have been presented with anywhere else already. It may be true that normally there is no woman in the centre of such a story and therefore you don't need to expect Jeong-eun to be fed up about the lives of her family members being threatened and going on a bloody trip of vengeance taking justice into her own hands here, but apart from the fact that the focus is lying more on the drama of the story "A Family" can't be truely suprising at any point. In fact at every point of the movie you know how the story is going to unfold and that is the biggest problem of this drama. Because an unoriginal drama can do as well in technical respects as it gets it still won't work out completely.

A Family - Film Screenshot 11

In fact there is one revelation that isn't foreseeable, but this one is already to be found somewhere in the first half of the movie. Actually, that's not entirely true as there are a few other revealments which, however, are simply obligatory in a drama and therefore can't win any points for originality. The only thing that makes the movie interesting is the relationship between father and daughter that is characterized by mutual reproaches. Jeong-eun accuses her father to have mistreated her mother since he has become a drunkard after having lost his job as a policeman. This lead to Jeong-eun messing around with shady individuals and becoming part of a gangster organisation which naturally was a big disappointment for her father. But it soon shows that the reproaches are mutually dependent and that pointing a finger at someone by far isn't as easy as it might have seemed at first.

A Family - Film Screenshot 12

Yet, besides the problems within the family there is also a threat coming from the outside. The ruthless gangster boss Chang-won wants his money back from Jeong-eun and he also stops at nothing to achieve his goal. At least he doesn't wince at using an ash-tray to almost hit Jeong-eun unconscious and so his character may be nothing more than genre-typical but because of the violence that he displays he leastwise is an individual worthy of our hate so that we are hoping that there may be a development into the direction of a revenge thriller after all. But Jeong-eun surely can't pull off that job, for this she is simply too weak physically, and the father is too old on the one hand and on the other he just wants to have his peace. Eventually, he has to find out, though, that someone like Chang-won doesn't stop pestering even if he got what he actually came for. Thus, there doesn't seem to be any other solution than a bloody one...

Su-ae, who later on should take on the lead role in movies like "Once in a Summer" or "Midnight FM", is making her movie debut here and she is cutting a pretty fine figure. Her character is complex, she is strong and fragile at the same time and her wish to make up with her father is always apparent on a subtle level despite all the animosities. Joo Hyeon's acting is even more subtle. He may be pretending that he doesn't want to hear from his daughter anymore but he has his reasons for that and for the audience it's just too obvious that in the end father and daughter will be lying in each others' arms. But that isn't the only thing that is predictable. Which is also why the finale lacks any tension and drama, some slow-motion and emotional score doesn't change that either. That really is a pity, because it's easy to imagine that the showdown could have become an emotional highlight if the drama hadn't head for the predetermined ending in such an obvious fashion.

A Family - Film Screenshot 13

At least "A Family" deserves some credit for the fact that the filmmakers weren't that manipulative when it came to the drama. Although it is pretty apparent at which points the viewer is supposed to shed some tears. Moreover, the film is always in motion, the relationship between father and daughter is constantly developing and so there is never a dull moment during the 94 minutes running time. It's just that many elements of a drama have been put together without creating anything inventive. A lot of good opportunities have been missed as well. The story revolving around the gangster boss always feels a bit forced and especially the developments toward the end can't surprise. In fact, maybe the ending is just a bit too reconciliatory and warm-hearted. A few more emotions wouldn't have been bad, of course still added on a subtle level as "A Family" does everything right in this respect. The predictability of the plot simply doesn't let the movie surpass a level slightly above average.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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