Film Review: Wonderful Nightmare

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Wonderful Nightmare – the wife and mother that Yeon-woo has to become for one month

Owing to an administrative cock-up at the Pearly Gates, rich, single, hard-nosed, man-hating lawyer Lee Yeon-woo, whose main client is an evil construction company, meets an early death. She is given a chance to resume her life, but only on condition that she first, for one month only, lives the life of a mother-of-two married to junior public official whose family struggles to get by on his poor salary. It doesn’t take a genius, based on the above scenario, to guess that Yeon-woo, after a period of adjustment, will begin to realise what a bitch she has been and will start appreciating the life of an average mother.

At this point there will be hackles rising that a film should present it as being somehow “wrong” for a woman to be single and successful, and there is certainly an element of the scenario that sticks in the throat. The un-PC nature of the plot is slightly diluted by the fact in her temporary married existence some of the problems she has to deal with are exactly the flip side of what she was doing as the corporate lawyer – for example the neighbourhood she now inhabits is scheduled for demolition as part of a redevelopment scheme she herself has been instrumental in bulldozing through. So maybe it was actually her morals and aggressive legal techniques that were bad, rather than the fact that she was single.

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Yeon-woo in her former existence as a hard-nosed corporate lawyer

And once we set aside our antipathy to the premise that docile homemaker is better than successful singleton we can start enjoying the movie and in particular Uhm Jung-hwa’s performance. What we have first is a standard fish-out-of-water comedy, as the stylish woman who is used to the finer things in life has to make do with frumpy clothes from the pound shop, figure out how to feed a family and to deal with the neighbourhood mums; and the movie gradually turns into a rom-com as she starts building emotional bonds with the children and father.

It all wouldn’t work quite so well without Yeon-woo retaining the memories and skills of her life as a lawyer, which turn this formerly downtrodden TV drama watching mum into something of a superwoman. Director Kang Hyo-jin (Dirty Blood) wrote the script for My Wife is a Gangster (dir Jo Jin-kyoo, 2001), and perhaps the gutsy woman character in Wonderful Nightmare (Korean title: Miss Wife) has echoes of the gangster wife from 2001. Altogether this is an entertaining popcorn flick, though maybe not one that will please everyone.

Kang Hyo-jin (강효진) Wonderful Nightmare (미쓰 와이프, 2015) SterneSterneSterneSterneSterne

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