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Don't Cry Mommy - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Don Keu-ra-i Ma-mi

South Korea 2012

Drama, Thriller

Kim Yong-han

Yoo Seon
Nam Bo-ra
Yoo Oh-seong
Dong Ho
Kwon Hyeon-sang
Lee Sang-min
Choi Dae-cheol
Jeong So-yang

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Don't Cry Mommy

Don't Cry Mommy - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Yoo-rim (Yoo Seon) just had a divorce and takes care of her daughter Eun-ah (Nam Bo-ra) all by herself. Eun-ah is doing quite well at her new school and soon makes new friends. Moreover, she also falls in love with the boy Jo-han (Dong Ho), who one evening calls her to the school's rooftop. Of course, Eun-ah turns up, but there are already some other guys waiting for her, too. After a few gruesome hours Eun-ah comes to at a hospital. Yoo-rim reports the rape to the police right away, but even though Detective Oh (Yoo Oh-seong) would like to do something in this case his hands are tied. The culprits are minors and barely can be punished by law. Yoo-rim goes to court, nonetheless, and has to accept a bitter defeat. Eun-ah doesn't cope with life anymore, especially since the culprits have a video of the rape which they threaten to put online if the girl shouldn't come to them again. In the end, Eun-ah sees no other way out than to take her own life. Yoo-rim is devastated and can't believe that the police still can't do anything. She decides to take the law into her own hands...

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Don't Cry Mommy - Film Screenshot 4

Review: "Don't Cry Mommy" deals with a subject that you may not just come across in Korea, but which is still a big problem there because of the country's patriarchal society: women whose rights are often trampled under foot. Particularly when it comes to raping. Furthermore, it is named and shamed that underage criminal offenders can't be hold responsible in an appropriate way. The criticism on society which the movie features is extremely obvious and at times also presented with a good amount of drama which is supposed to emotionally captivate us. Strangely enough, this even works out most of the time. Maybe that's because the film avoids almost any sort of overly complex narrative detours and yet delivers solid work on a technical level. In particular, we get some pretty convincing achievements from the actresses.

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Interestingly enough, the year the flick came out saw a film with a similar subject emerge: "Azooma". In contrast to this one and its pretentious handcamera shaking, which was supposed to create authenticity, "Don't Cry Mommy" is significantly more convincing. Perhaps that's also because the transition from drama to revenge thriller is fundamentally more neatly achieved here. Yoo-rim might be hysterical and desperate, too, and you don't have to understand all of her actions, but within the frame of her emotional state they always seem appropriate and comprehensible after all. Moreover, she is a lot more active and realizes very soon that no one will help her claim justice. Naturally, vigilante justice is always a difficult task, even the more when you are a slave of your feelings like Yoo-rim, who should be forging a good plan instead.

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A major point of criticism that can't be overlooked is that there are a lot of tears in the film, which shouldn't be a surprise considering the movie's title. Yet, this isn't your typical drama. For this it is without a doubt too dark, especially concerning its subject. Accordingly, you can't call anything corny here and thus the many tears don't turn out to be bothersome at all. On the contrary, they even display the female protagonists' emotions in a very believable manner. Also pretty well done is the transition from a desperate mother to an avenging angel who doesn't want to be one in the first place, but simply doesn't have anything to lose anymore and therefore goes down the only path left for her to chose. Thus, the tragic element that is part of Yoo-rim is put into play quite nicely as well.

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What's also positive to note is that the movie doesn't take any unnecessary detours. With a running time of merely 92 minutes the story is very tightly woven. After Eun-ah's death the movie may lose its shock value - after all the raping and suicide are already lying in the past - but the picture doesn't get seriously tedious after that. Furthermore, there is some sort of realism running through everything which is created by the surrealism of the gruesome act and the suicice, still having an impact on the rest of the story as well. Not all critics seem to have felt that effect as well, but in my opinion it is the main reason why "Don't Cry Mommy" works out better than one would assume. Also, Yoo Seon ("Moss", "Black House") manage to shoulder the movie at any given point in time and delivers a sophisticated performance.

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Nam Bo-ra ("Sunny") has her moments, too, but there are a few scenes in which it seems as if she expresses her inner emptiness merely by hanging the head. Moreover, you can't deny that some actions are barely comprehensible. Why does Eun-ah return to her tormentors and doesn't report the video to the police? Why can policemen only aim at vital organs? Notwithstanding all those questions "Don't Cry Mommy" manages to convince towards the end, too, since the mother's revenge story still shares the same thread of helplessness, being the result of the injustice of a flawed legal system. Apart from that there is a very well done waltz-like soundtrack accompanying the drama as well as thriller elements. In technical respects there also isn't anything to criticize. Maybe the story could have been realized a bit more subtle, but the drama isn't hackneyed and thus hits all the right notes.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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