TV Review: ‘Love Child’

Love Child HBO Documentary

No, it’s not the Diana Ross song. A fascinating topic presented in a heavy-handed way, “Love Child” joins a growing body of work that explores the potential costs of our Web-connected existence, using the tragedy of a South Korean infant neglected and left to die by her game-obsessive parents. Yet Valerie Veatch’s documentary tries too hard to be lyrical and Important, incorporating images of role-playing games in lingering shots that have about as much as subtlety as being whacked over the head with a console. Ultimately, there’s a story here worth seeing; it’s only too bad the film doesn’t fully do it justice.

At first blush, the parents sound like monsters, having let their baby (whose name, Sarang, means “Love”) essentially starve while immersing themselves in online gaming, leaving the child unattended for hours while they went to an outside venue to play. Given South Korea’s pride in its advanced Internet infrastructure, it’s a classic cautionary tale — one that requires scant extrapolation to cross borders.

Without ever showing the faces of the parents, Veatch (“Me @the Zoo”) seeks to foster unexpected empathy for them, while making the case for Internet addiction — a defense proffered by their attorney — as a mitigating factor in their neglect.

The heavy reliance on subtitles proves less of an impediment, alas, than the choices made to visualize this condition, which include efforts to transport the viewer into the virtual world the parents and the other gamers interviewed found so enticing. (Perhaps inadvertently, the game, Prius, and the way it’s depicted, vaguely resemble the fantasy sequences in the movie “Brazil.”)

The movie is at its best when remaining straightforward, interviewing police who investigated the case; public defender Ji-Hoon Lee; or Andrew Salmon, a journalist who covered the story.

The harmful effects of the Internet have been extensively vetted elsewhere, including Douglas Rushkoff’s PBS documentaries “Digital Nation” and the recent “Generation Like.” And those films did a better job of wedding the micro to the macro — even if the event that provides “Love Child’s” foundation is considerably more grave and disturbing.

HBO’s docs are generally provocative, and in terms of forcing the audience to think about a cyber-life whose gradual encroachments are easy to take for granted, this one delivers on that level. As structured, though, “Love Child” is a tough documentary to like.

TV Review: 'Love Child'

(Documentary; HBO, Mon. July 28, 9 p.m.)


Executive producers, John Legere, Christina Legere, Elizabeth Legere, Andrew Teng, Sheila Nevins; supervising producer, Sara Bernstein; producers, David Foox, Daniel B. Levin, Danny Kim, Minji Kim; camera, Levin; editors, Chris Donlon, Valerie Veatch; music, Kevin Veatch. 75 MIN.

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  1. cheyenne says:

    Why cant people take responsibility for their own actions? These people murdered their child cause they wanted to play a game which happened to be about raising a child! Are you kidding me? They claim they had no idea how to raise a child but with all that internet acess dont u think they could look up the standard tips and figure it out themselves or give it up for adoption so that it couldve had a chance? And i understand internet can be addicting and u know that baby was probably crying but the fact that they left the baby ALONE probably to avoid they crying is sickening! That baby was born and they took it home and then they left it to die…it never even had a chance!! They dont deserve sympathy and they dont deserve only 5 years in jail they deserve more! They are murder’ers and deserve the amout of jail time that murderers get.

    • Adriana says:

      You are absolutely right Cheyenne. If these parents thought enough to look up funeral information on the internet perhaps they could had looked up how often to you feed newborns. I am sick of these morons blaming their insanity and stupidity on video games, music, etc. These two deserve the same punishment they gave that poor child. The show made me sick to the stomach to see how they sympathized with these monsters just because they had a “gaming addiction”. Give me a break! I could not finish this documentary and wanted to kick myself for the 40 minutes of my life I wasted watching this.

    • Lena says:

      I just watched the documentary the father only got to spend a year in jail and the mother none, because ironically she was pregnant with her second child…they said they felt bad about what happened to their first born so they promised to never play video games again…In my opinion I do believe people deserve a second chance, but I honestly don’t know about these parents…

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