×

Film Review: ‘In Her Place’

An acutely observed psychodrama from sophomore helmer Albert Shin, powered by three sterling performances.

With:

Yoon Da-kyung, Ahn Ji-hye, Kil Hae-yeon, Kim Sung-cheol, Kim Kyung-ik, Kim Chang-hwan, Moon Chang-gil, Na Hye-jin, Kim Jae-rok, Lee Myung-soon, Kim Jae-boon. (Korean dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3662830/reference

An urban woman arrives at a failing farm to watch and wait until an erratic teen gives birth to the child she’ll adopt in Albert Shin’s confident, acutely observed “In Her Place.” If elements of other directors come to mind — Polanski, Bergman — it’s because Canadian helmer Shin, working for the first time in his ancestral land, has co-written a script of discreet probity and quietly chilling tension, about three unnamed women whose psychological profiles are given equal, nonjudgmental weight. A healthy, award-wining fest life may presage a place on arthouse screens, though critical push will be necessary for the film to go far beyond VOD.

Viewers can’t be faulted for questioning why the characters aren’t assigned names: It’s one of the few missteps here, and while the rationale was possibly to lend the story some sort of universality, the concept is upended by the very welcome specificity given each role. Those coming in without any knowledge of plot have the added benefit of being satisfyingly intrigued by the initially cryptic relationship between the four figures.

A couple from the city arrives at a rundown farm: He (Kim Kyung-ik) can only stay a short while, but she (Yoon Da-kyung) is preparing to bunk down. Her hostess (Kil Hae-yeon) is obsessively deferential and good-natured to the couple, but there’s a major source of tension with her teen daughter (Ahn Ji-hye). As viewers try to piece together the relationships, they pick up on clues, such as the way the wife appears uneasy, always solicitous and ultra-watchful, yet also as if she’s the boss. Then it comes together: The woman is planning to adopt the pregnant teen’s baby, and is there to ensure decent prenatal care.

The rapport between mother and daughter is fraught with conflict: The unsuccessful farm is a symbol of the widow’s romantic notions gone to seed, and the fee she’ll receive to give up her grandchild should be enough to set them up with a new life. But the teen is diffident, unwilling to accept her mother’s ban on seeing her b.f. (Kim Chang-hwan), and looking for ways to sabotage the deal. As the days go on, her behavior becomes increasingly unstable, and when the woman realizes she’s been eating things like grouting and wood splinters, she refuses to let her out of her sight.

What starts as a film focusing more on the two adult women gradually shifts to the daughter, a passively combative, strong-willed figure of deep immaturity (especially evident in a playful scene with her forbidden b.f.). Her mother has little insight into her daughter’s character, instead intent on transforming the “shame” of teenage pregnancy into a ticket out of her own stalled life. Into this nervous mix comes the woman, left on her own, emotionally fragile due to her inability to conceive (she’s had a miscarriage), and feeling like a fish out of water in this rural environment.

Trimming the running time would eliminate occasional longueurs, and there’s a very unnecessary dream sequence, not to mention a disturbingly graphic finale that will sharply divide audiences. Until those late scenes, the steady buildup of pressures makes for a quietly absorbing psychodrama that showcases the sterling trio of actresses, whose three-way clashes — often silent, consisting of glances and body language — create an atmosphere of troubling apprehension.

Intimate visuals keep the flexible camera conspicuous without being oppressively close to the protags, whose behavior generates its own inescapable sense of oppression. Natural lighting can tend toward the dark side at times, and great care has been taken with the understated soundscape.

Film Review: 'In Her Place'

Reviewed at Abu Dhabi Film Festival (New Horizons), Oct. 25, 2014. (Also in Palm Springs Film Festival — World Cinema Now; Gothenburg Film Festival — Five Continents; 2014 Toronto, San Sebastian, Thessaloniki film festivals.) Running time: 115 MIN.

Production:

(Canada-South Korea) An A71 Entertainment (in Canada) release of a TimeLapse Pictures production. (International sales: Elle Driver, Paris.) Produced by Yoon Hyun-chun, Albert Shin. Coproducer, Igor Drljaca.

Crew:

Directed, edited by Albert Shin. Screenplay, Shin, Pearl Ball-Harding. Camera (color, widescreen), Moon Myoung-hwan; music, Alexandre Klinke; production designers, Heo Seo-hyung, Choi Young-mi; costume designers, Kim Hyun-joung, In Ji-ae; sound, Shaun Kim, Matthew Chan; sound designer, J. R. Fountain; associate producer, Niki Shin; assistant director, Lee Tae-young.

With:

Yoon Da-kyung, Ahn Ji-hye, Kil Hae-yeon, Kim Sung-cheol, Kim Kyung-ik, Kim Chang-hwan, Moon Chang-gil, Na Hye-jin, Kim Jae-rok, Lee Myung-soon, Kim Jae-boon. (Korean dialogue)

More Film

  • Elsie Fisher and Bo Burnham2019 Writers

    Writers Guild Announces 2020 Awards Show Date

    The 72nd Annual Writers Guild Awards will take place in coinciding ceremonies in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton and the Edison Ballroom in New York on Feb. 1, the Writers Guild of America announced. The WGA will begin voting in November and will reveal this year’s TV nominees Dec. 5 and film Jan. 6. [...]

  • Tarantino Movies Ranked Illustration

    All of Quentin Tarantino's Movies Ranked

    In the history of cinema, has any director done more to elevate the idea of movies as cool than Quentin Tarantino? Certainly, the idea that films could be made by fans dates back at least to the French New Wave, when a group of die-hard critics stepped behind the camera. A few years later, Spielberg, [...]

  • A Stranger on the Beach

    Anonymous Content Wins Film Rights to Michele Campbell's 'A Stranger on the Beach' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anonymous Content has won the adaptive rights to the forthcoming Michele Campbell novel “A Stranger on the Beach.” In a competitive situation, Anonymous outbid multiple players for the thriller, which it will adapt for the big screen with in-house producers Alex Goldstone and Rosalie Swedlin. “Stranger” has been likened to sensual thrillers like “Fatal Attraction” [...]

  • Ridley Scott Matt Damon Ben Affleck

    Ridley Scott, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener Team on 'The Last Duel'

    Ridley Scott looks to have his next directing job, as he has signed on to direct “The Last Duel” with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck attached to star. Damon and Affleck co-wrote the script with Oscar-nominated Nicole Holofcener. Scott, Damon and Affleck all producing along with Scott’s producing partner Kevin Walsh. Drew Vinton is also [...]

  • Jonathan Taylor Thomas Ed Asner Elliott

    Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Ed Asner, Elliott Gould Seek SAG-AFTRA Board Seats

    Ed Asner, Elliott Gould and Jonathan Taylor Thomas are seeking SAG-AFTRA national board seats as members of presidential candidate Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate. Asner is the former president of the Screen Actors Guild, serving two terms from 1981 to 1985, and winning five Emmys for his role as Lou Grant and two others [...]

  • Natalie Portman Thor Comic Con

    Comic-Con: Marvel 'Shock and Awe' Strategy Dominates Twitter Buzz

    Disney’s Marvel Studios handily won the hype trophy from this year’s Comic-Con International San Diego. Marvel Studios — which returned to the 2019 Comic-Con stage with a chock-full Phase 4 slate of announcements — dominated the discussion on Twitter out of the convention, capturing the biggest volume of buzz for nine of the top 10 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content