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I Want to Know Your Parents - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Ni bo-mu eol-gol-i bo-go sip-da

South Korea 2022


Kim Ji-hoon

Sol Kyung-gu
Oh Dal-soo
Chun Woo-hee
Moon So-ri
Ko Chang-seok
Kim Hong-pa
Kang Shin-il
Nam Gi-ae
Yoo Jae-sang
Sung Yoo-bin

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I Want to Know Your Parents

I Want to Know Your Parents - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Lawyer Kang Ho-chang (Sol Kyung-gu) is summoned to his son's private school. The parents of three other children, including Do Ji-yeol (Oh Dal-so), the head of a hospital, are also present. The head of the school informs the parents that a student tried to take his own life and that he is now in a coma. Homeroom teacher Song (Chun Woo-hee) previously received a letter from the student saying that he was bullied, and the letter also mentions the names of his bullies. If possible, the school wants to sort things out internally, and the rich parents want to avoid for their children to get into any trouble. Together, the parents investigate the events that led to the attempted suicide, and when they realize that their children actually bullied their classmate, they do everything they can to destroy the evidence. Since the parents are quite powerful, they even manage to make the letter the homeroom teacher received disappear. They buy the teacher with a permanent position. But eventually her conscience doesn't leave her any peace, and she tells the mother of the bullied boy (Moon So-ri) about the kind of injustice that takes place in the background and that people want to sweep the case under the rug. But even with the help of the homeroom teacher, the desperate mother does not seem to be able to do anything against the bullies' parents. In the meantime, Kang Ho-chang also tries to find out if his son was as involved in the bullying as the other students, knowing full well that he might not like what he finds out...

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Review: Bullying at school is a well-known problem in South Korea, and so there have already been numerous movies dealing with the subject. Reaching from the rather cold indie flick "Pluto" to the more emotional "Thread of Lies", in which there is even a small ray of hope at the end. But what if you told the story from the bullies' point of view? You would hardly be able to relate to any of the characters. And what if, out of love for their children, the bullies' parents tried to make evidence of their kids' cruelties disappear? Then you could at least understand the motives. And this is exactly the path "I Want to Know Your Parents" chooses to take. A drama with an interesting premise, and which constantly keeps you on your toes with its twists and turns and new insights. But that's why it's all the more disappointing that the movie loses some of its momentum in the second half.

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There is quite a bit that makes this drama somewhat unusual. For example, there is the pictures and directing style, which sometimes remind you of a well-produced TV movie, so that you are all the more surprised to see what kind of stars can be found here. What's more surprising is the fact that, a year earlier, director Kim Ji-hoon put a completely different kind of movie on the screen with "Sinkhole", namely a disaster flick with a comedy twist. This time, however, his movie seems a lot more grounded and reasonably produced, if it weren't for the luxurious middle school, which is a gigantic estate. But maybe Kim just wanted to keep the theatrical atmosphere by chosing this approach, since the story of the movie is based on a play by Seigo Hatasawa. That's also why the characters mainly just sit together and talk, which may sound boring, but it's exactly the opposite. The dialogues add some nice suspense to the movie, and the characters are complex enough so that we can actually understand their actions.

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Right at the beginning, you get the impression that you are dealing with a mystery flick about a murder. The parents are sitting in a large room and don't know yet why they were called in by the faculty director. When they are informed that their children have (almost) driven someone to commit suicide, they at first start to blame each other, until the parents find out through a letter that all their children are to blame. What follows comes close to a thriller, except that here, the evidence needs to disappear. On closer inspection, the parents are not at all surprised that their respective child bullied someone, they just looked the other way or simply did not care because they had other things to do. Now, it's up to them to do damage control in order to save their children's future, but also to save their own faces. For that, they lie, cheat and steal. Together they plot against those who want to find out about the truth.

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There's no doubt that this drama wouldn't have worked without the great cast. Sol Kyung-gu ("Yaksha: Ruthless Operations") plays someone who feels the most remorse, but Oh Dal-so ("Best Friend") often upstages him as the most villainous among the "villains". But the other actors are also able to give their characters some nuances, so that it is impossible for us to simply hate them, instead we sometimes even share their desperation. Strong supporting roles, for example Moon So-ri ("The Mayor"), do the rest. An interesting aspect is also the professions the parents have: a lawyer, a hospital manager, a teacher and a former policeman, which symbolizes the pillars of every society, and in each of these areas, we witness corruption, causing others to suffer. This injustice, which is mostly experienced by the mother and the substitute teacher, can lead to despair and represents some nice social commentary.

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A great cast, well-written dialogues, and a fascinating plot - everything seems great so far. But after the first half of the movie, things start falling apart. Not only does everything get somewhat unnecessarily emotional, including some flashbacks, but there are even some court scenes that are not very original and hardly logical. In addition, the constant twists and turns also make the story lose its credibility at some point. Because of its unique perspective "I Want to Know Your Parents" wouldn't have needed to focus on the emotional aspects of the bullying. Sometimes less is more. Especially since the teenagers all remain pretty flat. If the director wanted to take this path, he would have needed to add more character development to the children as well. The way it is, the drama loses some of its depth and the cast's great character work has to take a backseat. This is extremely frustrating and makes the movie fall short of what you expected after the first half. That's why you can't really say that "I Want to Know Your Parents" brings a breath of fresh air to the genre, even though that's exactly what it looks like at first. Despite all that, the movie is still a fascinating drama.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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