Director: Kim Yoon-seok
Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 review
True to its title, Kim Yoon-seok’s Another Child sees the sudden birth of an unplanned baby whose place in the world feels uncertain and ill-defined. And as the child’s closest relatives attempt to process and accommodate this new arrival, their own lives and relationships are thrown into a similar state of flux.
Old bonds become strained by stunted communication, as characters tiptoe around the devastating facts when they aren’t simply fleeing the conversation. At the same time, new connections form between people who’d previously had no reason to ever cross paths. Though its story treads some familiar territory, Kim’s tenderly moving drama thrives as a poignant depiction of two families in transition, rethinking their dynamics with each new reveal.
The one character who almost never has a problem getting to the point is Yoon-ah (Kim Se-jin), an outspoken high-schooler who gets in touch with her classmate Joo-ri (Kim Hye-Jun) after she finds out that their parents are having an affair. Though Joo-ri would rather keep quiet about her father’s infidelity – not to mention the child that’s on the way – Yoon-ah takes the liberty of tipping off Joo-ri’s mother Young-joo (Yum Jung-ah) about the situation.
Initially, Young-joo chooses to keep quiet about what she’s heard, creating an unspoken tension between herself and her husband Dae-won (Kim Yoon-seok). The pressure erupts by way of their daughter when Joo-ri violently attacks Yoon-ah at school, though compared to the silence at home, their cathartic clash seems almost healthy. At the same time, Young-joo gets into her own physical altercation with Yoon-ah’s mother Mi-hee (Kim So-jin), but the conflict ends promptly when Mi-hee has to be rushed to hospital to give birth to Dae-won’s baby.
Born from an early labour, the delicate child is treated in an incubator while his relatives each respond to his arrival in their own way. Young-joo provides support to her husband’s lover while wrestling with an array of mixed emotions. Mi-hee refuses to visit her son, despite staying in the same hospital. Meanwhile, prompted by her mother’s neglect, Yoon-ah assumes the responsibilities of both parent and sister, as her friendship with Joo-ri continues to develop.
As for Dae-won, Joo-ri’s father provides some of the film’s most comically pathetic passages when he hides from his daughter and lover while trying to make eleventh-hour amends with his wife. This pitiful man’s story ultimately gets a little lost in its own narrative tangent, though it’s a testament to Kim’s endearing performance that his character always adds up to more than just a spineless caricature.
But while Dae-won’s arc is not without its messy moments, the shared journey of Joo-ri and Yoon-ah remains consistently compelling, thanks in no small part to Kim’s compassionate direction. The first-time filmmaker even challenges himself with a third-act bombshell that threatens to send the picture careening into the realm of weepy and exploitative melodrama. Thankfully, Kim refrains from overplaying the story’s tragic turn of events, earning his audience’s tears where it would’ve been all too easy to force them.
Here and elsewhere, the director exhibits a keen awareness of tone, while keeping the drama grounded and personal with an array of humanising, often humorous details. For the most part, this a film that trusts its characters to carry the emotions of the story, and as their relationships continue to adjust, evolve, and in some case, fall apart, Kim’s empathetic eye ensures that we’re with them all the way.