Director: Sang-soo Im

Starring: Do-yeon Jeon, Jung-jae Lee, Yuh-Jung Youn

Year: 2010

The Housemaid is, sadly, not either The Handmaiden or Parasite, but it is a combination of the two done before either, so maybe it deserves a little allowance.  Seeing the other two before going back to watch this one might have ruined my ability to really judge it evenly, because it views like a weaker attempt at the same story points, when really it may have been a precursor to the films of recent years that we absolutely loved.  The problem is, it’s more melodramatic than it is poignant, when we’ve experienced the opposite lately, and that’s what we want more of.  Going back a few years and watching something less polished is a disappointment, even if it’s not exactly its fault.

Young working class girl Eun-yi Li has just been hired as a nanny for a very wealthy family, to take care of the house, of their little girl Nami, and of a pair of twins who are on their way into this world very soon.  The Mr. and Mrs. of the household are quite perfect, very attractive, seem to have it all together, but there’s a bitterness and a darkness beneath the surface that Eun-yi simply isn’t ready to face.  Soon, the husband, Hoon Goh, has taken her for a lover, which doesn’t go unnoticed by the wife, Hae-ra.  Aided by two older women who trade in secrets and in lies, she makes ready to destroy Eun-yi’s life for the sin of relenting to the desires of Hoon Goh, in a twisted anti-romance that will chill you to the bone.

American audiences have truly been warming to Korean theatre in the past few years, and that’s excellent, because there is so much to enjoy and so many wonderful filmmakers who are now leaving their mark on Hollywood.  The Handmaiden, Parasite, Old Boy, Okja, Snowpiercer, Burning, The Wailing, The Host, Train to Busan; these are some great movies, and I know it seems unfair to clump them together just because they’re from the same country, we don’t do that with American films, but we’re still getting started with our appreciation for South Korean cinema, we’re understanding what talent the land has to offer, and it can only get better & more frequent from here.  The Housemaid, unfortunately, isn’t the best we’ve seen, but just chalk it up to high expectations and low overall quality; it’s more telanovela than thriller, and it’s not really sexy or steamy at all, it’s more uncomfortable and malicious.  I didn’t like the twists the story took, it wasn’t really exciting enough, and by the end I simply didn’t want to watch any more.  Let’s keep our eyes open for more from these directors we are coming to love, and let’s get ready to ultimately stop grouping all Korean cinema together, because it’s easy to see that this country is going to be the next film powerhouse.

My rating: ☆ ☆



By ochippie

Writer, Critic, Dad Columbus, Ohio, USA Denver Broncos, St. Louis Cardinals Colorado Avalanche, Duke Blue Devils