×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mai Ratima

An unconventional cross-cultural love story with a sharp social sting, "Mai Ratima" tells of a runaway Thai immigrant and a small-town drifter lost in the bright lights of Seoul.

With:
With: Bae Soo-bin, Park Ji-soo, Soh Yoo-jin, Ko Se-won, Kim Kyung, Lee Jun-hyuk, Hwak Sook-sung. (Korean, Thai, English dialogue)

An unconventional cross-cultural love story with a sharp social sting, “Mai Ratima” tells of a runaway Thai immigrant and a small-town drifter lost in the bright lights of Seoul. But despite the film’s polished tech package and strong denunciation of racial discrimination in Korea, “Old Boy” thesp-turned-helmer Yoo Ji-tae overreaches, swamping his feature debut with fancy film techniques that run counter to the edgy, docu-like realism he’s striving for. Yoo’s name could lend the pic extra marketing muscle in local alternative-cinema circles and land a few festival slots abroad.

To support her sister and Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother back in Thailand, Mai Ratima (Park Ji-soo) enters into an arranged marriage with mentally challenged Sang-pil (Lee Jun-hyuk). Stuck in the drab seaside town of Pohang, she endures the daily harangues of her mother-in-law and sexual harassment by her brother-in-law Sang-rim (Kim Kyung).

Mai’s woes are exacerbated when her visa renewal comes up, but she narrowly escapes deportation thanks to the spur-of-the-moment kindness of Soo-young (Bae Soo-bin), a social outcast who can’t even afford to renew his national ID. They run off to Seoul and inevitably drift into a relationship, but the corruption and callousness of the big city leave them bruised and jaded.

The litany of racist abuse Mai suffers as a Third World immigrant is not an exclusively South Korean problem, and other films from the peninsula, such as “Bandhobi” and “Punch,” have explored the sufferings of foreign workers with greater sophistication and less melodrama. Still, Mai’s plight retains the power to disturb and enrage, anchored by Park’s harrowing perf. Although she isn’t perfectly convincing as a Thai woman, the South Korean thesp wholly immerses herself in the role on an emotional level. Quivering with the constant anxiety of a hunted animal, she renders Mai by turns bitter, patient and exceptionally sensuous.

Running parallel to Mai’s marginalization is the snobbery Soo-young encounters as a migrant worker. His descent into the world of escorts and hoods after he becomes entangled with bar hostess Young-jin (Soh Yoo-jin) not only serves as a devastating example of dented male ego and tarnished dreams, but also demonstrates the fragility of love in a cold economic climate. Embodying the contradictions of someone willing to risk his life for a female stranger even as he impulsively discards lovers like clothing, Bae makes Soo-young flawed but never despicable.

Im Sun-ae’s solid script is packed with incident, but the middle act becomes as listless as the protags, as the focus alternates too frequently between them. The elaborate score, excessive cutting and other stylistic diversions, including fantasy sequences, actually diminish the raw power of the fluid, frequently handheld lensing and the actors’ finely tuned naturalism. Otherwise, tech credits are aces.

Mai Ratima

South Korea

Production: A Lotte Entertainment release of a Lotte Entertainment presentation of a Yoo Movie production in association with At9 Film, T-Entertainment, Yoo Movie, supported by Asian Cinema Fund Post-production Fund in cooperation with Korean Film Council. (International sales: Lotte Entertainment, Seoul.) Produced by Hong Yeon-jeong. Executive producer, Song Kwang-ik. Directed by Yoo Ji-tae. Screenplay, Im Sun-ae.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Lee Jung-bae, Jang Won-wook; editor, Moon In-dae; music, Jo Young-wook; production designer, Lee Yo-han; costume designer, Yoo Ji-yeon; sound (Dolby Digital), Seo Young-june; re-recording mixer, Kim Young-moon; visual effects supervisors, Baek Kyung-soo, Kim Jun-hyung; visual effects, Digital Idea; Action choreographer, Heo Myong-haeng; line producer, Daniel Son; assistant directors, Lee Hwan-hwee, Park Kyeong-hwan. Reviewed at Busan Film Festival (Korean Cinema Today), Oct. 5, 2012. Running time: 128 MIN.

With: With: Bae Soo-bin, Park Ji-soo, Soh Yoo-jin, Ko Se-won, Kim Kyung, Lee Jun-hyuk, Hwak Sook-sung. (Korean, Thai, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Robert Iger's Pay 'Naked Indecency' in Op-Ed

    After stirring a flurry of reactions over her Tweets calling out wage inequality at the Walt Disney Co. on Sunday, Abigail Disney, a filmmaker and philanthropist who is the grand niece of Walt Disney, penned an opinion column outlining her arguments against Disney’s pay practices. In her op-ed, which was published in the Washington Post [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame' Reaps $90 Million in China by Late Afternoon of Opening Day

    “Avengers: Endgame” is already breaking records in China, raking in $89.6 million (RMB602 million) as of 5 p.m. on opening day Wednesday – two days ahead of the U.S. – and putting itself firmly on track to become the biggest Hollywood title ever in the Middle Kingdom. The Marvel finale has already set a new [...]

  • ‘The Gift: The Journey of Johnny

    Film Review: ‘The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash’

    Very much in the manner of an “unplugged” acoustic album that showcases the musicianship of a major artist without distracting flash and filigree, “The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash” is a tightly focused yet impressively multifaceted documentary that attempts nothing less than to delve past familiar myths and illuminate the soul of its fabled [...]

  • Emily Morgan Cormac Fox Gregoire Debailly

    European Film Promotion Reveals 2019's Producers on the Move

    Twenty of Europe’s up-and-coming producers are going to Cannes with European Film Promotion. The organization unveiled its latest roster of Producers on the Move on Wednesday, a lineup that features France’s Gregoire Debailly, who produced Jean-Bernard Marlin’s “Sheherazade,” which premiered in Critics’ Week in Cannes last year, and Ireland’s Cormac Fox, who produced Sophie Hyde’s [...]

  • Avengers EndGame Trailer

    ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Marvel claims the top spot in spending with “Avengers: Endgame.” Ads placed for the superhero film had an estimated media value of $6.28 million through Sunday for 927 national ad airings on 39 networks. (Spend figures [...]

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Netflix Can Chill: Academy Rules No Change in Streaming Oscar Eligibility

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will not change eligibility rules for the Oscars, despite speculation that streaming companies might see a crackdown on their release practices when pursuing golden trophies. A board of governors meeting on Tuesday voted to maintain the status quo, that any feature-length film can be considered for the [...]

  • Aniara review

    Film Review: 'Aniara'

    Each year brings an example or three of purported “thinking person’s science-fiction” films, a category that pretty much embraces anything not centered on monsters or lightsaber battles. These efforts are often more admirable in theory than result, but “Aniara” — the first film drawn from Nobel Prize-winning Swedish poet Harry Martinson’s 1956 cycle of 103 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content