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A Good Lawyer’s Wife (Baramnan Gajok, 바람난 가족)

Director – Im Sang-soo – 2003 – South Korea – Cert. – 105m

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Unsatisfactory family life in which fathers and mothers cheat on their wives and partners in search of a more fulfilling existence – screened with a director Q&A as part of a strand of films celebrating actress Youn Yuh-jung at LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Joo Ho-jeong (Moon So-ri) bemoans the fact that once you’re married, you get less sex than you did as a single woman. Judging by the opening sex scene, in which her husband comes prematurely leaving her to satisfy herself, she would probably be better off single. Still, she has a small son Soo-in (Jang Joon-yeong) to mother and a local dance classes to teach.

The relationship is not working for her husband Yeong-jak (Hwang Jung-min) either, given his full workload and the fact that he’s sleeping with his P.A. Kim Yeon (Baek Jong-rim). His mother Byung-han (Youn Yoh-jung), meanwhile, is watching her alcoholic husband die and enjoying a new lease of life with a new lover following a decade and a half with no sex.

Desperate for physical affection and aware that the teenager next door Shin Ji-un (Bong Tae-gyu) is playing peeping tom with her, Ho-jeong sets out to seduce him, following his bicycle on hers, buying tickets to the same cinema screening and later taking him on long walks cross-country.

Both partners’ infidelities are threatened with discovery. The husband’s when he and his lover are involved in a road accident while driving together, the wife’s when the boy’s loutish father tells the husband what he suspects is going on. And while the road accident is not fatal per se, it turns out to have unexpected and brutal consequences for the husband’s family.

The film’s sympathies lie with the unhappy woman as she tries to work through her problems and find alternate ways of living. Moon So-ri gives a brave, highly physical and convincing performance while, in a minor role, Youn Yuh-jung shines as a woman of the previous generation who has undergone a not dissimilar situation and emerged having found herself after years in the wilderness. The film was to prove something of a turning point for both actresses, boosting Moon’s career considerably and putting real life divorcée Youn back on the big screen after many years off it.

A Good Lawyer’s Wife screened with a director Q&A as part of a strand of films celebrating actress Youn Yuh-jung in LKFF, The London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th.

Trailer (Korean only):

Clip (subtitles):

LKFF 2021 Trailer:

Youn Yuh-jung films currently or recently available…

LKFF (London Korean Film Festival): Woman Of Fire (Kim Ki-young, 1971), The Bacchus Lady (Lee Je-Yong, 2016), Canola (Chang, 2016), Ladies Of The Forest, Kim Cho-hee, 2016)

Three films by Im Sang-soo: A Good Lawyer’s Wife (2003), The Housemaid (2010), Heaven: To The Land Of Happiness (2021). All three films feature a director Q&A.

Korean Film Archive YouTube Channel (free): Insect Woman (Kim Ki-young, 1972)

MUBI (in New South Korean Cinema season): The Bacchus Lady (Lee Je-Yong, 2016), Lucky Chan-sil (Kim Cho-hee, 2019)

BFI Player: The Housemaid (Im Sang-soo, 2010)

Curzon Home Cinema: Beasts Clawing At Straws (Kim Yong-hoon, 2020)

Other major platforms: Beasts Clawing At Straws (Kim Yong-hoon, 2020), Minari (Lee Isaac Chung, 2020) 2020/2021 Best Supporting Actress Oscar

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