TIFF 2019: Bring Me Home – movie review

Bring Me Home. Image credit: Courtesy of TIFF

For the first time I’ve been granted press accreditation for the Toronto International Film Festival®, recognised as one of the largest and most prestigious film festivals in the world. So, I had the opportunity to watch and review a bunch of movies. This is my review of TIFF exclusive Bring Me Home (South Korea, Kim Seung-woo, drama/mystery/thriller; original title: Na-reul cha-ja-jwo).

The directorial debut of Kim Seung-woo had its world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival: Bring Me Home is about Jung-yeon (Lee Young-ae, Sympathy of Lady Vengeance), a mother whose 6-year-old son disappeared into thin air: her quest to find Yoon-su is already hard and seemingly impossible but, six years after the boy’s disappearance, the mother receives an encouraging tip that leads her to a fishermen village. When it seems like Jung-yeon is close to find her son, she is, in fact, caught up in a disturbing, violent and depressing ride.

Continue reading and check my final grade below… 

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Bring Me Home is a very unflinching thriller that finds its main strengths in the bleak approach to such a sad subject matter. This is the type of film that stays constantly dour and depressing in a very clever way: the movie gives Jung-yeon (and, thus, the audience) glimpses of hope every now and again, but soon after it destroys them in even more disturbing and infuriating ways than before.

Through a turmoil of shocking and unexpectedly confronting sequences, this South Korean film is able to captivate the audience from the minute it starts until the very last scene, with a fast pace that’s quite a rarity in Korean cinema. Unflinching in its approach, unafraid to get graphic and hard to watch, Kim’s directorial debut is also a very dense picture.

Under the disguise of a very well-made thriller, Bring Me Home touches upon many issues in current Korean society: police corruption, society indifference and unlawful selfishness.

Despite the overall depressing atmosphere, the movie doesn’t shy away from showing the main character’s hope through sweet and emotional flash-backs/dream-sequences: in any other movie, these would feel corny and out-of-place. Here, however, they perfectly implement the story and Jung-yeon’s character: the contrast between her resolve in wanting to find her son at all costs and the somewhat naïve nature of her hope make for an incredibly multi-layered and relatable main character.

It certainly helps that every performance in Bring Me Home is immaculate: Lee Young-ae is fantastic as a devasted mother, bringing a lot of charisma and personality to the role. Every person who stands between her and the finding of Yoon-su, however, is incredibly well played as well. Some characters might look like cliched villains at first sight, but they work perfectly as the representation of every obstacle in Korean society a mother would face to find her missing boy.

What prevents this film from being fully impactful and gut-wrenching, however, is that some scenes feel a bit predictable. The story itself, down to its conclusion, is really well-crafted and unpredictable, but there are certain key scenes where the build-up immediately tells the audience how the scene is going to end, in that it relies on formulaic thriller techniques.

Aside from that, my only other complaint with Bring Me Home resides in the music choices: the score for the movie, very melancholic and atmospheric, is fantastic most of the time, but during some thrilling sequences it feels too overbearing and tropey for the film’s own sake.

All in all, Kim Seung-woo’s directorial debut is nothing short of one of the best thriller/mystery films of the year: Bring Me Home is emotionally impactful, depressing, disturbing, poignant and, above all, exhilarating. I’m sure that, with his next film, the director will improve upon the few formulaic aspects of this movie and will make something that could potentially be a masterpiece.

Bring Me Home                                 8/10

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