Banished to provincial purgatory after a censure for misconduct, a former star of the Seoul police force finds her maternal instincts unexpectedly awoken when she meets a troubled teenage girl.
A Girl At My Door
The ethereal presence of South Korea's Bae Doona is put to perfect use in July Jung's Cannes success A Girl at My Door. Bae's slight frame and unblinking gaze gave the Wachowskis their eerie future cyborgs in Cloud Atlas and Hirokazu Kore-eda his lethally innocent pleasure machine in Air Doll. Writer-director Jung capitalizes on the actor's unsettling effect, but in a story set firmly in the real world.
Bae plays Young-nam, a police officer transplanted from Seoul to a small fishing town. She shows up under a cloud of scandal, having committed an offence that no one wants to mention by name. She's a good, experienced cop, though, so she arrives in the village ready to do her duty as the new police chief, even if it means she's in charge of the law in a place she barely understands.
When she tries to help teenage girl Dohee (Kim Sae-ron), who is being beaten by her stepfather, Young-nam's intervention rapidly escalates. Before she knows it, she's drawn well beyond the lines of law enforcement, and professional ethics mingle with personal motives. It doesn't help that Young-nam is a secretive drinker, nor that her ex-girlfriend soon shows up from Seoul to scandalize the locals and muddy the waters even further.
In her feature debut, Jung handles what could have been a lurid narrative in a clear-eyed, understated style. She establishes the unwritten rules of the small town in efficient strokes, then reveals, step by step, how one woman's actions can shake that order to the core.