A quietly gripping South Korean film from first-time director July Jung, A Girl at My Door (Dohee-ya) rings some interesting changes on that old cinematic standby, the disgraced big-city cop relocated to a backwater town.
Transferred after an ambiguous scandal to a small seaside town, former police academy high-flier Young-nam (Doona Bae, the cloned ‘fabricant’ in Cloud Atlas (opens in new tab)) becomes the protector of a waifish young girl, Dohee (Sae-ron Kim), who is being bullied by her schoolfellows and brutalised by her drunken stepfather, the local gangmaster (Sae-byuk Song). But doing good turns out to be a messy business.
The more we learn about the story’s protagonists, the more complicated our response to the situation becomes. Young-nam is not as self-possessed as she appears – a secret drinker, she hides alcohol in water bottles – while Dohee is not entirely vulnerable and innocent. And as the plot twists and turns on the way to an emotionally ambivalent resolution, Jung supplies challenging and sometimes disquieting food for thought.
Certificate 18. Runtime 119 mins. Director July Jung.
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A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.
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