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November restos picture: Lotte Cinema METROGRAB

(Picture) Lotte Cinema

Miss Baek is a story of the women who break you, and the women who make you. Nestled in between all the different ways patriarchy acts on a woman, South Koreas Miss Baek is the tentative, heart-warming story of a horribly abused child and her journey towards justice – with the help of a jaded masseuse.

Miss Baek is Lee Ji-wons first feature and its already making waves both in its home country in South Korea and beyond. It received double the box office gross of A Star is Born during both films opening weekend on 11 October and ventured west in its European premier for the first time as a screening at the London East Asian Film Festival (LEAFF).

The noir feature begins with gritty detective Jang-sup (Lee Hi-joon) walking through Seouls freezing streets, pushing past police and red tape in a run-down set of flats where he finds the month-old decomposed remains of an old woman, which he soon learns is the mother of his girlfriend, Baek.



Men are little more than caricatures, at best, and absentees at worst in a feature that boils down to the tale of two women and their struggle for the soul of a little girl. Baek, who works as a masseuse and washes cars constantly spurns the affections of her boyfriend, rejecting hundreds of proposals in a way that seems callous – until viewers learn that her mother abused her intensely throughout her childhood, and she fought off an attempted rapist in her teen years, only to be failed by the law when she needed it the most.

One night she comes across a bedraggled little girl called Ji-eun, (Kim Si-ah) whose body is filled with cuts and bruises, and after feeling bad and taking her to a food tent, she meets a seemingly well-meaning and warm stepmother, Mi-kyung (Kwon So-hyun).

November restos picture: Lotte Cinema METROGRAB

(Picture: Lotte Cinema)

Viewers soon discover that Mi-kyungs warmth is nothing more than an act, and behind her neat clothes and smiling face is a vicious woman who beats Ji-eun and forces her to reside in the bathroom with the air conditioner on, hoping to slowly kill her whilst her father (Baek Soo-jang), also an abuse victim, ignores it all and attempts to numb himself through an addiction to computer games.

Han Ji-min swaps her glitzy drama roles for the gritty anti-hero in a portrayal at odds with her usual, quirky characters. Her depiction of Baek is both quiet and loud, both calm and raging – a mesmerising presence on screen. It comes as little surprise that Ji-min won best actress award at LEAFF, as well as best actress for the role at the 38th Korean Association Film Critics Awards.

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Director Lee Ji-Wons Baek is a nod to the femme fatale, but he develops the noir trope and gives it a layer of meaning. Baek is nobodys accessory, and that fact becomes clear in the vicious fight sequence at the end.

The pathetic fallacy of the moody, acid-washed cinematography aesthetics gives a glimpse into South Koreas working class underbelly.

Miss Baek is a riveting feature that moves one moment like molasses, another like lightning with a fresh, yet economical script: there arent any wasted words here.

And in the heart of it all is the story of redemption, and the silent power that women yield.

LEAFF runs in select cinemas in London until 4th November.

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