Cast: Kim Minhee, Kim Saebyuk, Lee Eunmi, Seo Younghwa, Song Seonmi
* This film is available to view in California only. Limited tickets.
Best Director, 2020 Berlin International Film Festival
In many of Hong Sang-soo’s films, female characters are forced to listen as listless, drunken men endlessly whine about their relationship problems and professional failures. These grand displays of insecurity are crucial to Hong’s exploration of Korean masculinity in crisis, and often hilarious for how they mine the depths of pathetic groveling.
For THE WOMAN WHO RAN, Hong flips the script, focusing his narrative almost entirely on a trio of calm and reflective conversations between women. Gamhee (Kim Minhee) travels the outskirts of Seoul visiting old friends, engaging in mostly small talk and gossip that mask certain painful wounds that haven’t altogether healed. How the women politely dance around confrontation is a thing of beauty, and an act of social selflessness that doesn’t come without cost. Hints of bitterness are momentarily present, but these characters rarely produce the kind of anxious energy found in the director’s masterpieces like The Day He Arrives (SDAFF ‘11) or Right Now, Wrong Then (SDAFF ‘16 Spring Showcase). Favoring breezy, dialogue-heavy interior scenes, each segment gets disrupted by a disgruntled man clamoring for underserved respect. Most of the time, their faces are obscured. That stylistic decision positions the viewer squarely in the shoes of women who have undoubtedly spent countless moments humoring humorless men.
Still, THE WOMAN WHO RAN doesn’t dwell on these hurtful distractions. Instead, it functions as a loving respite from the exhaustion they produce, something we are reminded of in the beautiful final scene where Gamhee avoids rehashing old heartbreak and ventures back into a movie theater to enjoy the tranquil ending of a film she’s just finished. Sometimes cinema truly is the only escape.
–Glenn Heath Jr.
Sponsored by Korean American Coalition San Diego