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Festival film review: The Truth Beneath

Lee Kyoung-mi (이경미): The Truth Beneath (비밀은 없다, 2016)
Review by Robert Cottingham

The Truth Beneath

Lee Kyoung-mi got her start in films working with Park Chan-wook, and from watching this film it seems she has taken his lead when it comes to violent revenge.

When a politician’s daughter goes missing the scandal threatens to upset his ambitions for an important election. We soon learn that relationships between mother and daughter are not so great when Min-jin lies about who she is doing her homework with.

Rather than begin an investigation, Jong-chan is more concerned with winning the election. It’s left to her mother Yeon-hong to look for her daughter. Things take a tragic turn when her daughter’s body is discovered dumped in woodlands. How much more can I tell you without spoiling it?

Getting to the truth of the events takes mother on a nightmarish journey where she must distinguish truth from lies. After the first twenty minutes, in which the political candidates introduced by way of flashing subtitles on the screen, I was totally absorbed by this film.

The Truth Beneath

In flash-backs, we see how the relationship between Min-jin and Mi-ok. What was interesting was the way the girls’ relationship was affected by the corrupt adult world. For example, Min-ok’s noticeably poorer father works as a driver for Min-jin’s father, and we were given a sense of how much poorer her family was when we saw she was living in a one room building, stepping over her sleeping family when she needed to leave in the middle of the night.

I didn’t count a shot lasting longer than twenty seconds; truly a feverishly edited film. Indeed, it was so intense that I watched rooted to my seat, sometimes hardly believing what I was watching.
It showed as well that for all its recent modern developments, there are still many traces of the Chung-hee dictatorship in present-day Korea. Witness the schoolgirls who stay behind to clean the classrooms every day, and the name badges that every pupil must wear. Then, there is the cruelty and violence of relationships, where love can be used as a weapon. It’s a thoroughly unsentimental film with many scenes of terrible violence. It’s not a film that casts a good light on Korean society, but I’m glad I watched it nevertheless.

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