[Film Review] What´s Wrong With Us? THREE SISTERS
2021-02-05 15:35:00Hits 1,200
22nd JEONJU International Film Festival (2021)

[Film Review] What´s Wrong With Us? 
JEONJU Cinema Project 2020

Hi there,    
This is the second newsletter from JEONJU IFF.  

JEONJU IFF starts to deliver reviews of Korean films related to JEONJU IFF, or Korean film news. 😺😻

Let´s start with Three Sisters, LEE Seung-won family drama starring MOON Sori (Oasis, HILL OF FREEDOM). Three Sisters, one of JEONJU Cinema Project 2020, has been doing well since its release in Korea last month. It has enjoyed commercial and critical success!

We would like to share the film´s trailer and review from film journalist LEE Hwajung. 

Three Sister 💛 Trailer 

Click here to read more articles! 👇
💌[Variety] THREE SISTERS at the top spot of Korean box office  
💌[The Korea Times] MOON Sori to star in, produce female-led film THREE SISTERS  

How Did We Come To This? The Question THREE SISTERS Starts With 

Three Sisters is a movie that starts from a single question. We see a black and white scene of children running in their long johns. Why are they running through the streets at night? Even before our curiosities are answered, the shot of the children from the back turns into a shot of grownup women seen from the back. What could be the link between the two? Instead of answering this question, the camera is quick to chase after the daily lives of the three sisters. 

Heesook (KIM Sunyoung), the eldest who runs a flower shop, is about to die of cancer. Her relationship with her rebellious daughter (KIM Gahee) has long been damaged, and her husband (KIM Euiseong) only stops by to demand her for money. The third daughter Miok (JANG Yoonjoo) writes plays, but she turns violent when nothing goes her way. She lives with her husband (HYUN Bongsik), a fruit distributor, and his son from his previous marriage. It looks like the public gaze isn’t so kind on this family. The second daughter Miyeon (MOON Sori) who is active as a deacon of a church seems to have the most promising life among her sisters. She recently moved into a luxurious 52-pyeong (almost 2,000 sf) apartment in Gwanggyo with her professor husband (JO Hancheol) and their children. However, she’s also living an empty life. When her husband gets caught for having an affair, everything she built up in her life breaks apart. 

Although they’re sisters, they have little in common. From the beginning, the camera follows behind each of the women who are absorbed in their daily lives. It also seems like the three of them don’t meet up much. Even when two of them manage to meet, the air feels heavy. When Miyeon visits Heesook’s shop, Heesook reminds Miyeon that she has never visited the shop before, while Miyeon is unhappy when Miok drops by her church out of the blue dressed in flashy clothes. The only link these distant sisters have isn’t the present, but the past that continues to come back at them time and again. Miok says to Miyeon, “Was it when I was five? You and I ran out barefoot to the nearby supermarket,” as she wonders “why” they did what they did. 

To this, Miyeon ambiguously says she can’t remember. Her answer is short, and through it, we can see that she’s hasty to avoid the uncomfortable question. Behinds this uncomfortable question and answer is the domestic violence the three sisters experienced during their childhood. A flashback scene that remains in someone’s memory is shown. Through the black and white scenes, the film tries hard to bring back the painful past the three women tried so desperately to forget all of their lives. 

The sisters of Three Sisters are each hateful, bizarre, and strange in their own ways. Heesook has a habit of apologizing even when it’s not her fault, and she continues to call herself an idiot or garbage. Miok is an alcoholic, and Miyeon uses her faith as a function to gain control over her daily life. Perhaps their strange habits act as their defense mechanisms to keep themselves together from the memories of violence. No single adult gave them a helping hand during their childhood, including their mother who must’ve gotten used to the violence as well. Just as they had run in the black and white scene in their long johns to avoid their father’s repetitive abuse, the women still continue to run through the years to escape from the terrible memories. 

The Virtue of Not Answering Difficult Questions So Easily 

The three sisters in the film look similar to the rough and desperate characters seen in director LEE Seungwon’s previous films. There are a woman and a man who try to resolve their pains from losing a family member through sadistic sexual behavior in Communication & Lies (2015), while the family members in Happy Bus Day (2016) share how they wanted to escape and leave behind the disabled little sibling during their childhood. From a glance, these stories are shocking and erotic enough to be a reportage show, or even a writer’s variation of a soap opera. What LEE Seungwon wants to look back on are the people who themselves become the outlet for their rage. All of them lie instead of communicating, swear instead of comforting, and continuously commit self-abuse. Where wounds and wounds collide, strange behavior and disturbances happen. And here, pains beyond shocking and erotic accompany them.  

This is why the emotional climax in Three Sisters is the moment of silence the camera bravely captures amidst all the commotion. Heesook inflicts pain on her own body, and Miyeon who’s unable to ease her frustration, piles up pillows before letting her anger out in order to conceal the sound. These are the ways they deal with the pain, their weaknesses they don’t want to show anyone. But cruelly, this film allows their beloved daughters to discover their moms in this vulnerable state, exposing the sisters’ festering wounds.  

 The grownup woman and the girl in the flashback are the same person, but they lived without reconciliation while avoiding each other. The child whom we met from behind starts to show her face, and the circumstances of the incident start to get revealed in the second half of the film after the film reveals which sister is the one in the repeated flashbacks. The child who prayed every night “may our entire family except for my dad be dead” the next morning, and the woman who always blamed everything on herself demand the assailant who was given indulgence for repenting to apologize. Here, the camera speeds up and continues to move towards the climax. The film shows the abnormality of communication, and through the sisters who live through lies, the film is determined to say that we shouldn’t justify the violent past by saying, “Everyone was like that back then.”  

MOON Sori, KIM Sunyoung, and JANG Yoonjoo deserve the credit for allowing this brave and precious film to come to reality. KIM Sunyoung’s instinctive and rich expressions and MOON Sori’s concise acting with controlled emotions show contrasting performance styles, so watching them together is a gift-like experience. But their performances do not just end as performances. They bring up the quality of the female narrative, and open the doors for more. JANG Yoonjoo who made a comeback after a long break since Veteran (2015) shows us that she’s a true actress. She creates a never before seen character in Korean film history through the tough Miok who has unique laughter and charms.  

Three Sisters which was selected for JEONJU Cinema Project 2020 and was invited to the Panorama section of the Busan International Film Festival was produced by MOON Sori who is also talented in directing as we saw with The Running Actress (2017). Director LEE Seungwon showed his colors through his two previous productions, and while continuing to address similar problems, he found a way to communicate with the public more closely through his meaningful collaboration with MOON Sori. 
LEE Hwajung Film Journalist, former editor of Cine 21, and podcast host of JEONJU in Audio. She’s also on a YouTube series, Long Time No Cinema now.  
Addio a Cecilia MANGINI

What´s New?
“Filmmakers around the world have kept shooting art and independent films during the coronavirus pandemic.
The 22nd JEONJU IFF received 398 films from 68 countries for the International Competition section, a slow but steady increase so far."
"It is noteworthy that continental, national, and genre diversity expanded with a wider spectrum."
JUNG Junghoon, the world-famous cinematographer who made his name by filming most of director PARK Chanwook’s defining works, will shoot the upcoming Disney Plus Star Wars prequels, The Obi-Wan Kenobi. It will be the first time for a Korean cinematographer to join in Star Wars series.” (Exclusive article from Cine 21)

Courtesy of Amazon Studios
Darius MARDER’s Sound of Metal, which was introduced in JEONJU IFF´s World Cinema, has earned rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. Riz AHMED won Best Actor at the Gotham Independent Film Awards, the National Board of Review (NBR), and more. 
Courtesy of Netfilx
Space Sweepers, a new film known as “Korea’s first space opera” is coming to Netflix this month. Directed by JO Sunghee, the film is one of the most anticipated Korean film of the year for its star-studded cast of SONG Joongki, KIM Taeri, JIN Seonkyu, and YOO Haejin. 

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