The local broadsheet papers The Straits Times gave this movie a five-star review. As a writer suffering from writer’s block, I needed some inspiration and decided I could learn something from Korean storytellers and movie makers, whom I feel have better plots than Hollywood nowadays.
Kim Ki Woo lives with his out of work parents and sister in a basement apartment, folding pizza box for a living. His friend, who is going away for overseas study, asks him to tutor a rich girl in English, despite him having no university qualification. Ki Woo is told that the girl’s mother, Mr Park, is simple-minded and would employ him since he comes highly recommended.
I thought the initial set up of the story was rather slow, as Ki Woo plots to bring his whole family into the employment of the Parks, by getting his sister Ki Jeong to pretend to be a famous art therapist for Park’s son. Then they set a trap to get the driver and housekeeper fired so that his parents Mr and Mrs Kim could replace them. They feel a sense of guilt but convince themselves they are worse off than the driver and housekeeper.
The climax of the movie starts when the Parks go on a birthday camping trip, leaving the vacant mansion to the Kims. While the Kims are drinking away, the old housekeeper, Moon Kwang, returns, claiming that she has left something behind. They follow her to the basement and discover that her husband has been living in the secret bunker, used for the rich to escape the war with North Korean or to hide from creditors, for four years. Moon Kwang in turns discovers that the Kims are a fraud. They start to fight and the ex-housekeeper and her husband are restrained in the bunker. Then the Park calls that they are returning in eight minutes, the camping canceled because of the rain. The suspense comes as the rest of the Kim family who are not supposed to be in the house at that time of the night scurry around trying to hide from the Parks. The Kims manage to pull through this but they have no plan B as to what to do with the housekeeper and her husband in the bunker. Then come the surprise birthday party the next day when all the disasters stuck.
The ending is surprisingly brutal for what I thought is a satirical film. But you watch it and decide. What bothers me throughout the show is the significance of the stone that Ki Woo clutches at the end, at first sent by his friend’s grandfather (whom I didn’t catch the relationship) which the Kims thought would bring them good fortune.
Tell me if you know the answer.
I like how the story incorporates little details, like the basement body odour of the Kims which the Parks find offensive, and which Mr Kim feels offended because Mr Park finds his smell offensive. Then there is Mr Park remarking about staff crossing the line, but one is never sure where the line is. Such details set the characters for the viewers.