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‘The Housemaid’ – Movie Review
You have probably heard and even seen your fair share of upper class – lower class clashes in films to last a lifetime. However, everytime another movie comes along with the same base plot, you find yourself sitting up and wondering how this one would fare out.
You get the same reaction for ‘The Housemaid’, a movie that showcases the struggle of a lower class, middle aged house maid who has to contend with a brutal life as imposed on her by the family members of an upper class family, whose mansion she works in.
Directed by Im Sang Soo, the Korean film is a remake of the 1960 original with the same name. And although the director has managed to stick with the original plot, he has added some more tweaks to the remake to make it more compelling.
‘The Housemaid’ revolves around the life of Eun-Yi (Jeon Do-Yeon), a divorcee in her mid 30’s who is hired to work as a housemaid in the mansion of an upper class family. Upon arriving at the mansion, Eun-Yi immediately feels the cold atmosphere inside and realises that she would most probably be given the same treatment by its residents who include the master of the house, Hoon (Jung Jaa-Lae); his wife Hae-Ra (Seo Woo), their child Nami (Ahn Seo-Hyeon); Hae-Ra’s scheming mother (Park Ji-Young) and the senior headmaid Byeong-sik (Yeo-Jong Yun).
Timid and kind at heart, Eun Yi settles down to work with the family and being the generous soul that she is, she is soon sucked into their world of changing core values and inhibitions. All her attempts to please the family fail as Eun Yo realises that everyone in the family is indifferent to her pleasing ways, except her master Hoon who seems to take a liking for her.
Hoon’s care for Eun-Yi however, has hidden intentions, which the latter finds out only later. Excercising his social position and power, Hoon forces Eun Yi to sleep with him, the result of which is disastrous. She gets pregnant with his child.
And when their secret is discovered by the rest of the family, all hell breaks loose. Eun Yi is forced to abort her child, a move that leaves her devastated and mentally depressed. And as the conditions around her worsen, Eun Yi falls deeper into a state of depression until at one point of time, she decides to turn things around and take matters into her own hands.
‘The Housemaid’ in its entirety is a wonderful piece of work, playing out as both a sensual and thrilling fare. Equally mermersing are the backdrops which feature a gorgeous mansion along with some beautifully designed costumes that highlight the characters and their inner personalitites aptly.
The cinematography is praiseworthy and manages to effectively project the stark differences between Eun Yi’s earlier bustling world and her more recent elegant but cold surroundings. Added to all these positives is director Im Sang Soo’s strong direction that binds together an otherwise weak script.
Worth mentioning are the individual performances by the actors. Seo Hyeon who plays the disconnected child Nami has excelled in her role. Portraying a young and innocent girl who is still mature for age, Seo Hyeon manages to hold onto you with her power packed emotions.
Jung who plays Hoon is natural in his cocky and arrogant avatar. Seo Woo who has essayed the role of Hoon’s wife manages to impress us with her solid performance, exspecially in the scene where she comes to know of her husband’s infidelity. Other noteworthy performances are Jeon and Yoon who are nothing short of excellent in their respective roles.
However, one basic flaw with ‘The Housemaid’ is its inability to leave a strong mark in the audience’ s hearts. Despite having a strong stroyline about the wicked ways of the wealthy, the film’s characters don’t seem to connect with you in any way and seem lost in their own distant world.
Blame it on them or the way Sang Soo wanted them to be. But this one small defect manages to keep you from feeling sympathetic for Eun Yi or any of the other characters in the movie.
Still, ‘The Housemaid’ has its own interesting moments and depicts the tale of a lone and frightened hero from the comparatively lower classes who has to fight her way out of the wicked clutches of her upper class employers in order to avoid becoming a mere puppet that constantly plays to their tunes.
Our Verdict: If you are willing to devote your full attention to the film, ‘The Housemaid’is worth watching once.
Director: Im Sang Soo
Cast: Jeon Do-Yeon, Jung Jaa-Lae, Seo Woo, Ahn Seo-Hyeon, Park Ji-Young and Yeo-Jong Yun.