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.

City To City

A Girl At My Door

July Jung

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.

CAMERON BAILEY

Screenings

Mon Sep 08

Scotiabank 8

Industry
9:15am
Mon Sep 08

TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Regular
9:30pm
Thu Sep 11

TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Regular
4:00pm
Sun Sep 14

Scotiabank 8

Regular
6:45pm