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Original Title:
Goyangileul butaghae

South Korea 2001


Jeong Jae-eun

Bae Doo-na
Lee Yo-won
Ok Ji-young
Lee Eun-jil
Lee Eun-ju
Moon Jung-Hee
Oh Tae-kyung
Hwang Seok-jeong
Jeong Bo-hoon
Yoo Soon-cheol
Kim Kwang-gyoo
Kim Su-hyeon
Park Jin-yeong
Kim Kwang-il
Jang So-yeon

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Take care of my Cat

Story: Tae-hee (Bae Doo-na) is a dreamer, who wants to flee her boring life in an intact, middle class family. She often meets with a handicapped poet and writer, and tries to escape the normality of her life this way. However, she is not the only one having a hard time. Her female friends from her time back in school have to struggle with similar problems. Hye-joo (Lee Yo-won) works at a notable company and gets paid very well. She can afford everything she wants, yet has no qualification except of her school-leaving certificate. Her job is everything but stable, she can be fired any day, but she ignores the recommendations of her colleagues and boss to go study and work only part-time. Hye-joo thinks that she is living at the moment and doesn't want to think about the future.
Opposed to Hye-joo is Ji-young (Ok Ji-young), who wants nothing more than to be an artist and work in the textile industry, yet has to cope with her life in poverty at her grandparent's place. These three girls, as well as the twins Bi-ryu (Lee Eun-jil) and On-joo (Lee Eun-ju), were once good friends, but nowadays haven't much to talk about during their weekly meetings, anymore. Their carefree life is over, and they have to realize that every one of them has to face life's hardships on her own...

Review: "Take care of my Cat" is a drama that didn't do well at the box-office, yet received much enthusiastic praise from critics. The reason for latter is easy to see. The movie does, in a very unique and fascinating way, shed light on five friends, who had a carefree and nice time together attending school, yet don't meet often these days as they seemingly have only little in common anymore. As it is the case with many friends they drift apart after school. Regular meetings are supposed to prevent this from happening, but the wedge that is driven between them because of their different social background is pretty evident. Hye-joo is the rich girl, who leads a life full of luxury goods, but always has to struggle with an uncertain future ahead of her, while Ji-young lives in a run-down shack with her grandparents. Ji-young's poverty is ruining her future and so Ji-young's jealousy, as well as Hye-joo's scorn towards her, spoil the former friendship of these two.

What's making "Take care of my Cat" working out so well is the honest and unpretentious way with which female director Jeong Jae-eun approaches her work. We accompany the protagonists on their numerous strolls through Incheon and are visitors of their mindsets. We can also relate to their worries. Since most scenes are playing outside, we always have the feeling that we are right at the pulse of the lives of these five individuals. The camera movements through the winding lanes somewhat depict the disorientation of the protagonists, and the dirty, lively harbor district bestows a well-implemented captivating and tense atmosphere upon the movie. That's also why it is easy for us to forgive the director for the sometimes slow pacing, even the more as the drama is lightened up by some small, but well-done jokes. The quiet and long shots give the film something of a docu, but the keen eye for details when it comes to the characters' elaboration, as well as the outstanding performances of the actresses, make it easy for us to symapthize with them.

It isn't that safe to say that the film is attaching special importance to one of the characters. If there is someone you would have to choose that comes near to someone like the leading role, then it's Tae-hee, who depicts a dreamer, being the one who seems to be ready to break free of the bonds of her life, wanting to change things for herself, instead of simply wandering on a predestined, but foggy route. Luckily, the film focuses on the different characters in equal parts. Only the twins get a somewhat raw deal, and would have deserved some more minutes on screen with their emigration background. Also interesting, even though on a side note, is that their friends are still not able to tell the twins apart after all those years they spent together, which leads to a pretty amusing scene at a market, and provokes us to think about the kind of friendship these girls must share.
The least sympathetic girl in the movie is Hye-joo, who just looks too shallow. After a laser correction on her eyes she thinks of making her nose smaller and her eyes bigger. She wants to conform to the current ideal of beauty and in addition she also has a princess-complex, something that is almost characteristic for young Korean girls. Still, she is working for her money, even if she never thinks of the day after tomorrow.

Moreover, Hye-joo also has something that you could call a boyfriend, yet this is a subject she actually doesn't want to think about, which means that we really start to admire her boyfriend for his patience with this girl. However, in the end we realize that Hye-joo is also still a child and that she is battered by the pressure that is applied on her by society. The toughest fate has Ji-young, though, who always remains an outsider within the group, since her poor origin denies her being anything other than what she is right now. Her cold and rejecing behavior never feels repelling, though, at least not for the viewer, as we know what worries plague her and why she acts the way she does. Tae-hee is the one who understands Ji-young the best, and she always tries to get access to Ji-young's inner self for her to open up to others more, which she actually succeeds in later on. But it's a long and difficult road until then. Fact is, however, that we are shown in "Take care of my Cat", in a very impressive and inventive way, what giant obstacles teenagers have to overcome after school. Only now they start to realize, that life is different from that happy time they had in school among friends. This is an experience everyone of us has to make sooner or later, and we are reminded of this very fact by the story of those five female friends struggling to find their way in life.

The movie's title surely wasn't just chosen for fun reasons, as the cat in the film actually serves a purpose. It is handed from one person to another and maybe illustrates that the girls aren't ready yet to take on responsibility for the cat, respectively their own life. At the end, however, you might come up with different explanations for the cat's existence, as well. It remains up to the viewer and his willingness to read between the lines, how much he takes home for himself from the sometimes pretty subtle pictures. Female director Jeong also peps up her film every now and then with several text messages that roll over the screen in almost any possible fashion. Nowadays, this may be something you can see in every other romantic comedy, but the originality of these scenes from the year 2001 still remain out of question.
"Take care of my Cat" is an inventive, but also entertaining view at the lives of teenagers, who slowly make their first insecure steps within a new section of their life. Being a drama in its core, "Take care of my Cat" offers something outstanding, delivering so much more than your average drama. In addition it's also difficult to compare Jeong's work to others' - that's how honest and genuine this drama actually is. For this fact alone the movie deserves an extra point in the final rating and a big thumbs up!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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