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Next Sohee - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Da-eum So-hee

South Korea 2022

Genre:
Drama

Director:
July Jung

Cast:
Kim Si-eun
Bae Doo-na
Jung Hoe-rin
Kang Hyun-oh
Bahk Woo-young
Lee In-young
Park Hee-eun
Kim Yong-joon
Shim Hee-sub


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Next Sohee

Next Sohee - Film Screenshot 1

Story: So-hee (Kim Si-eun) is doing a high school externship at a telecommunication company. There she works in the call center and thus has to answer customer calls. At first, the work is not easy for her, but she slowly gets used to it and is motivated, especially since the employees receive a bonus if they land enough new accounts or manage to renew contracts. So-hee has always been passionate about dancing and has already rehearsed quite a few choreographies, but now she doesn't have time for it anymore. Every now and then she still meets up with her friend Juna (Jung Hoe-rin), but she hardly sees her former dance partner and friend Tae-joon (Kang Hyun-oh) anymore because he has a new job. So-hee then achieves her first successes at work, but it turns out that the bonus is only paid to the externs with a few months delay and So-hee generally earns much less than was promised in the contract. The company mercilessly exploits the externs through the fine print in their contracts. So-hee's team manager supports his employees as best as he can, but his guilty conscience and the constant pressure drive him to suicide. The company management quickly sweeps the incident under the carpet, but when another person commits suicide, detective Yoo-jin (Bae Doo-na) takes up the investigation and slowly finds out how much the externs are exploited and how they are driven to the edge of mental resilience, and all this happens in other companies too.

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Next Sohee - Film Screenshot 4

Review: "Next Sohee" is one of those slow-paced dramas that require patience, but dissect the world of capitalism with merciless honesty, portraying the problems of our society, which exerts so much pressure on people - on the younger generation in particular - that it is no longer bearable. Thanks to a fun-loving protagonist who doesn't just put up with everything, even though she is in danger of breaking down due to the cruel reality of everyday working life, the drama turns out a lot warmer than we are used to from similar works. However, the big problem is that the movie's focus on the investigation of a suicide splits the story in two, which admittedly could have torn the movie apart a lot more if done clumsily, but inevitably still creates a visible cut. The story of the investigation also deals a bit more deeply with the various institutions and who is actually to blame for the suicides, which somehow gives the movie something of an investigative documentary as well.

Next Sohee - Film Screenshot 5

Anyone who has already seen "A Girl at My Door" from the same director will have an idea of what to expect from Jeong Joo-ri (or July Jung by now). Things range somewhere between art house cinema and drama which also tries to address the masses - only this time, maybe a little less so. The lengthy running time of 137 minutes is just as much proof of this as is the opening scene in which we see So-hee dancing without sound for a while. Still, this already gives us an idea of the girl not being the kind of protagonist who just quietly bottles everything up. Her expressive nature and sense of justice make her do a few stupid things, but you are always on her side. Through her new job in the call center, though, she gradually loses her rebellious nature, or so it seems, until she realizes how unfairly the employees are treated there. She understands that the externs are being exploited and that they are being denied fair pay by contractual clauses.

Next Sohee - Film Screenshot 6

This is where a factor that is special to Korea comes into play. Quotas that have to be fulfilled and rankings that are always posted at the workplace for everyone to see. Koreans are already familiar with this concept from school, where they are judged and ranked according to their performance. The employees have to compete with each other, while the individual teams are also judged on their results. Later, we also find out that state funds are approved depending on how many students the schools successfully place within companies, so the problems go all the way to the top. Therefore, it's no wonder that the resulting pressure can lead to serious issues and even suicide, which the bosses quickly cover up. The police also seem to just have to accept the fact that this is how the world works, or they are semi-corrupt themselves. But there is also our second protagonist, played by Bae Doo-na ("The Silent Sea"). The policewoman seems reserved and hard-nosed, but over time, we realize that the case affects her deeply, and she even takes the matter personally.

Next Sohee - Film Screenshot 7

However, the real heroine of the story is of course So-hee, portrayed by Kim Si-eun, who will also appear in the second season of "Squid Game". Her personality is fleshed out quite nicely, and her transformation at work into a motivated call center employee, as she looks forward to her bonus, and her subsequent bitterness and anger about being taken advantage of are the driving force of the movie. Nevertheless, behind her fairly high-spirited personality, there is also a sensitive girl. And some of her decisions can be described as rather nave, just as you would expect from a girl her age. In addition, she comes from a poor family, which becomes more and more obvious over time - she doesn't even have a computer at home. It is exactly because of her effort to escape poverty, which is put into focus as her motivator quite cleverly, though, that she gets so involved at work, but is then disillusioned and has to realize that people want to keep people like her poor and that she has no chance to really change anything in her life. So for what exactly did she give up her dream of dancing?

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Next Sohee - Film Screenshot 10

So-hee's parents are also written interestingly. They don't notice most of the things that are happening, and it turns out that they don't really know their daughter either. The reasons for this have to be read between the lines, like so many other things that have to do with the characters. The situation is different when it comes to the socio-critical aspects, though. The investigation makes it very clear what the problem of today's society is, and a little more subtlety would have helped here. You could also criticize the pacing, which turns out a bit too long-winded. Even though a few things happen without warning and sort of wake you up again, keeping you glued to the screen, you still have to be patient for long stretches of time. Strangely enough, "Next Sohee" also gets a bit more emotional towards the end, but somehow, the tears just won't come. Maybe that's because of the somewhat cold direction or because of my own callousness. Because the drama shows some serious problems of our society, but doesn't the majority of people already know about this? Or are we really supposed to believe that anything will change in the near future? But that could also be the reason for So-hee's bitterness. In the end, "Next Sohee" is a drama that is definitely recommendable, but maybe also hits the bull's eye a bit too perfectly.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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