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Original Title:
Yeoja, Jeong-hye

South Korea 2004


Lee Yoon-ki

Kim Ji-soo
Hwang Jung-min

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This Charming Girl

Story: Jeong-hae (Kim Ji-soo) works at a postoffice. She lives near her workplace in a flat. In her secluded life only her plants and a cat she did pick up off the streets keep her company. She mainly eats instant noodles and oftentimes orders something out from the Home Shopping Channel's commercials.
Except getting something to eat in her lunch break with her female colleagues, she avoids any contact to other people. Slowly, one gets to know a little bit more of her past, her dead mother and an old friend, who suddenly steps into her life again.
Jeong-hae did get some mental wounds in her past, but she decides to go on with life. When she often meets a writer (Hwang Jung-min) in the postoffice, she takes her chances and invites him for dinner. Can Jeong-hae really love again, despite her tragic past?

Review: "This Charming Girl" is most likely of all the movies I've seen so far the movie in which seemingly happens the least. Accordingly, it was quite difficult to write a story summary. What is there to tell?
Director Lee Yoon-ki takes us with his debut into the normal and monotonous life of Jeong-hae. We get to see her everyday life in which nothing happens at all. Those without patience should stop reading at once and look for another movie to watch, as patience is a must in order to appreciate this movie. Nearly for minutes in every scene we watch her doing so absurd-normal things as watering her plants, driving in the bus or just eating a meal. Nonetheless, the director and above all actress Kim Ji-soo manage to keep up our interest in the life of this ordinary person.

In "This Charming Girl" there seem to be happening only a few things. Those who are willing to see under the surface will find out that the movie is in fact very multilayered and provides us with a lot of things that set us thinking.
The movie works because of its small and irrelevant details, which make the life of Jeong-hae so credible. For example there is her place of work at the postoffice where we get to see her sometimes hectic workday. Different persons go in and out every day and the colleagues of Jeong-hae aren't that uninteresting neither. Even though they get only little screen time. This is of course, because we get to see the whole movie out of the eyes of the main protagonist and she isn't one to spend lots of time with other people. So it's also no wonder that there is not much of dialogue to be found here. As a matter of fact, there is also no need for it to understand certain things. Nearly every action and event has a deeper meaning to it, e.g. Jeong-hae taking care of a stray cat or wanting to buy some new shoes. There is a lot of thinking and analysis left to be done by the viewer, but those who are willing to do so will get rewarded.

With time we are told why Jeong-hae is prefering a secluded life, not wanting any changes in her everyday life. In some very well inserted flashbacks, which perfectly blend Jeong-hae's memories into the present, we finally get to know what strokes of fate she had do endure and what she has to suffer from. She tries to heal her inner wounds in seclusion and on her own, and she suddenly gets aware, that the time has come to go on.

Kim Ji-soo's performance isn't just convincing and credible, but she also manages to be very charming under her cold and rejecting surface. With just a few gestures she brings to life a variety of different emotions, charming the viewer. Apart from her the other characters in their short time on screen also have individualities and seem to be taken right out of real life.

"This Charming Girl" is a character study of a postoffice employee, who wants to muster up her courage to go on with her life, letting bygones be bygones. Because of the many small details the director did place value on, the oftentimes artistic use of unsteady cameras, despite the sharp picture, and the great performance of Kim Ji-soo, it's just fascinating to dive into the life of this person for 100 minutes. In order to fully appreciate the movie it's a must to actively think and reflect.
If you don't have the patience and the fascination for this kind of Art House Cinema then you should keep your hands off it. Other than that, the movie is really recommendable, although it has its lengths.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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