South Korea is an ever expanding source of insightful and interesting movies. With the increasing popularity of its horror, Police procedurals, and action films it is gaining a well deserved reputation for quality cinema. As a consequence other types of films from the country are becoming more marketable leading to the likes of the a drama like A Girl At My Door (original title Dohee-Ya) gaining a lot of praise on the international film festival scene which in turn gained the film a cinema release in major territories. Having an actor like Doona Bae involved helps as well. She is one of the upcoming actresses from Korea and will be recognisable to fans of the recent film and TV work by the Wachowskis.
Young-Nam (Doona Bae) is a police officer who is taking up the post of station chief at a small seaside town. She is there due to a misconduct matter in Seoul with her punishment being the transfer. As she enters the town she sees a young girl, Do-Hee (Sae-Ron Kim) playing at the side of the road. Young-Nam tries to talk to the girl but the youngster bolts as soon as she is addressed. As Young-Nam settles in to her position, she finds that the town is not the sleepy little back water it appears to be. Do-Hee is regularly beaten by her classmates and is the subject of physical abuse from her Father and grandfather, both of whom drink to excess and are involved in some of the more shady goings on in the town. Young-Nam takes in the girl in order to take her away from the abuse, but as she does so the father lodges a molestation charge against Young-Nam leading to the reason she was sent to the town becoming public knowledge.
The writer/director July Jung has weaved a compelling story that utilises the visuals more than dialogue. For the character of Young-Nam she has written her as someone who takes the time to react to situations. There is no impulse to her and everything appears measured and calculated. This of course may not be the case as Young-Nam has previously been involved in a traumatic situation leading to her exile from the city police and her approach may be one of caution. What July Jung does is to give the character space to develop. Nothing is rushed with the character and we only get snippets of her back story which always leaves questions for the audience to ponder.
The film has a detached air to it in the initial scenes which echo the struggle that the main character is experiencing. It is evident that all is not well with Young-Nam and she is trying to cope with her situation as best as she can. The film then draws parallels between the woman and the young girl. In a way they are both in a difficult situation not of their making. By forcing them together, there is a hope that they can find the strength as a unit that is missing from them individually.
Doona Bae is excellent in the role of the police officer. Initially it is a fish out of water type situation and her detachment towards others seems odd. In her performance, she gives nothing away and the character has a disconcerting stillness. For Doona Bae it is all in the eyes. A simple expression tells the audience more than a page of exposition ever could. When it comes time for her to step up and actually take control instead of passively accepting her lot she is a good enough actor to convince you that this is something that the character is capable of. For anyone that saw her in Cloud Atlas and Sens8 her talent will be no surprise. She is one to keep an eye on in the future.
Overall, a fine example of South Korean drama and an excellent central performance from Doona Bae. Recommended.