Take Care of my Cat



Goyangirul butakahae : South Korea 2001 : Jea-eun Jeong : 112 mins

Five South Korean 20-year-olds find their bonds of teenage friendship dissolving as they make the transition to adult life. Hae-Joo (Lee Yo-Won) is an ambitious yuppie; talented artist Ji-Young (Ok Ji-Young) dreams of studying abroad; Tae-Hee (Bae Doo-na) does volunteer work that brings her into contact with a paralysed poet; twins Bi-Ryu (Lee Eun-Shil) and Ohn-Jo (Lee Eun-Joo) form their own mini-group within the group. Writer-director Jeong alternates between comic and dramatic episodes, binding the different story strands together using a sub-plot about a stray cat, found by Ji-Young and passed among the friends.

This is a pleasant if forgettably innocuous peek into the modern-day lives of young Koreans, with a keen eye for the atmosphere of the main settings, principally the rough-and-ready port city of Inchon. But many aspects are universal, not least the friends’ obsession with their mobile phones: Jeong’s big visual gimmick is to have text messages appearing in different parts of the screen, and whenever one of the girls’ phones rings we see an appropriate icon pulsing in a corner.

His approach is otherwise very straightforward, restrained and deliberately small-scale as it eavesdrops on these girls and their hectic existences, but he does make a few subtle political points along the way. The grandparents of one of the girls live in shack-like accommodation that suggests South Korea’s housing market is as unsatisfactory as the Japanese conditions dramatised in Hideo Nakata’s Dark Water, this subplot culminating in the film’s one memorable moment of jolting drama. Elsewhere, it’s all a little bit too so-what-ish for comfort, and viewers hungry for a more energetic look at current Korean youth would be well advised to see out Kim Tae-Gyun’s raucous Volcano High.

9th April, 2002
(seen 16th February, Delphi Berlin – Berlin Film Festival)

by Neil Young
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