June 17, 2019

The Widow: Females First, Female Firsts

Quick. What's the first Korean movie directed by a woman? Yeah, I didn't know the answer either and that's too bad because Park Nam-ok's The Widow is actually really, really good. This despite missing the final footage and having the ten minutes preceding that missing footage devoid of sound. How many movies can you say are unquestionably worth watching even though you never get to see the end? Well, The Widow is one of that select few. Part of the movie's appeal can be attributed to Lee Min-ja who brings a lot of complexities to the lead character, the single mother Shin: She seems crafty by necessity, devoted but only to a point. She's neither the hero nor the villain; she's more a self-respecting woman trying to get by in very less-than-ideal circumstances. You can't blame her for manipulating her husband's old friend, the rich Mr. Lee (Shin Dong-hun), and you've got to appreciate Park's unexpectedly bold presentation of her as a far-from-perfect mother to her petulant and needy child Ju (Lee Seong-ju).

Also hard not to relish is how the sex symbol of The Widow is neither Shin nor the philandering Mrs. Lee (and certainly not the prostitute who lives down the street). It's Taek (Lee Tak-kyun), the unofficial lifeguard we first meet wearing only a bathing suit even as our protagonist is hanging out on the same beach in traditional raiment with a parasol over her head. You could say, he's The Widow's homme fatale who will lead Shin to compromise herself in her family, to indebt herself to a married man, and to drink hard liquor. He's not trying to ruin this lady's life. He simply can't help cause all-around grief and destruction. Just ask his former love, Mrs. Lee.

No comments:

Post a Comment