CIFF REVIEW: Another Child

Another Child is a well paced South Korean family drama with very strong, relatable performances at its centre. It concerns the reprecussions of an affair between a married man and a single mother and what effect it has on their family, more specifically their two daughters who find out about them before anyone else.

The movie starts with 17 year old Ju-ri (Kim Hye Jun) seeing her father (Kim Yoon-Seok), a wealthy stock broker with his mistress (Kim So-jin) who is a restaurant owner. Ju-ri is at the woman’s restaurant spying on the two of them. When she is spotted, Ju-ri runs away but is knocked down by the woman’s daughter Yoon- ah (Park Se-jin) who goes to the same school as her.

From the incident, Ju-ri drops her cellphone, which Yoon-ah finds and brings back to her at school the next day, but that’s not before she calls Ju-ri’s mother (Yum Jung-ah) to tell her about the affair. On top of all this, we find out that Yoon-ah’s mother is also pregnant which brings about complications of its own. The rest of what follows is a character driven piece about betrayal, heartache, family, friendship, and forgiveness.

Another Child doesn’t offer many new things in regards to the family drama of this sort. The elements in it seem to be built up by a plot from a soap opera, yet to the film’s credit it stays grounded and never goes for melodrama.

A lot of the film’s success comes from the great performances, particularly by Kim Hye Jun and Park Se-jin who play the two teenage girls caught up in their parent’s infidelity. We see these girls grow from bitter rivals who blame eachothers parents for the affair, into real friends, and sort of surrogate sisters. It is their growth which is at the heart of this film, and which makes for an engaging watch.

However it’s when the film too often deviates from the two girls’ story that it loses some of its momentum. The film tries to juggle too many subplots at once, such as the father, who doesn’t want to own up to his misdeads and responsibilities taking a side trip on his own which doesn’t really go anywhere. In fact the father’s cowardess and pathetic demeanor makes one wonder why the women in his life found anything to admire about him. He’s the one person in the film who felt rather charicaturish and cartoonish, which didn’t gel with the rest of the film.

The father was actually portrayed by the film’s director for which this was his debut. As an actor, his strength comes mostly from directing the performances which are this film’s saving grace. There are moments of real truth, and the character’s relationships form a stronger bond as it progresses. However by the end, the film loses a certain ounce of poignancy. There wasn’t a very good payoff, even though in the last scene, I feel that’s what the director was going for. Something was there that didn’t feel quite earned, and in a moment that should’ve been memorable didn’t really pack a punch.

In the end Another Child felt like a mixed bag, full of some true emotional honesty, but too scattered to be fully satisfying. It feels like a nice film made by some very nice people, and wanting to tell a nice story, but it never rises above it.

2.5 stars out of 5

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