Reviewed by AmyDunning
on 16/01/2016 16:49

Beautifully filmed in rural South Korea, A girl at my doorrnfollows Policewoman Young-Nam as she is relocated to a small fishing villagernand becomes intertwined with a young girl and her abusive father, Yong-Ha. Playedrnby Doona Bae, Young-Nam is a striking vision of female authority, her fiercernno-nonsense attitude is hinted to be a cover for an equally complicated past,rnand she uses it as a mechanism to intervene into a dominatingly patriarchalrnsociety. The new town she moves to first appears to the viewer as a pastoralrnidyll, yet as the small town politics reveal themselves, a darker and morerndysfunctional side reveals itself as Young-Nam investigates Yong-Ha played byrnSae-byeok Song. rnrnJuly Jong, one of a few Korean female writers and directors,rncarefully reveals the vulnerability of young women by navigating contemporaryrnsocial problems including domestic abuse, abandonment and homosexuality. Whenrnthe two young women are flung together they are able to intimately investigaterntheir own troubled pasts. Alcoholism plagues Young-Nam throughout the story,rnusing it as a sedative to encourage her to sleep and forget her previousrnmisconduct, as well as seeing it materialise in the abuse the young girlrnreceives when her father is drunk. Despite a thin background explanation ofrnYoung-Nam, the film does not lose out because Bae carries the film with herrnpowerfully dynamic performance. Silent close-ups of her taking a drink after arnparticularly difficult day, or with her eyes closed in the bath work wonders atrnportraying her vulnerability and also her inability to cope with her past. Young-Nam’srnhomosexuality complicates the plot further, and although no characters in thernfilm openly disapprove of her lifestyle, it is apparent that it is largelyrnfrowned upon. rnrnInterspersed with moments of high tension, and silent longrncamera shots, this film is gripping from start to finish. Young-Nam has veryrnlittle dialogue throughout the film, which contrasts starkly to Yong-Ha and hisrnmother who cannot complete a sentence without swearing or vulgarity. From thernoutset, Young-Nam is an outsider who is unable to comprehend a society thatrnenables such abuse of the law to occur. Criminal gang-leader, Yong-Ha has thernprotection of the police until Young-Nam unearths the abuse he inflicts uponrnhis daughter. Cleverly edited, the film enables the viewer to become engrossedrnin the personal lives of both Young-Nam and the girl. The violence that flowsrnthroughout the film does not overwhelm the subplots, but instead enables themrnto flourish, revealing deep and well-developed characters. rnrnAmazing performances are given by all three of the leadrncharacters, Sae-ron Kim as the young girl is particularly moving, resonatingrnwith the audience after the film. The success of this film comes in the abusedrncharacters’ abilities to move beyond their classification as victim, theirrnemotional journeys are played out before our eyes as we discover that there isrnno innocence left in the child. They learn, and they grow from their troubledrnpasts. Kim’s portrayal of the abused girl is spectacular, and leaves thernaudience wondering what will happen as this child grows, are years of domesticrnabuse reversible, or will she carry those scars for the rest of her life?rnDespite its dense subject matter, this film is a refreshing attempt tornhighlight the injustices that occur at the hands of alcoholism and domesticrnabuse, a topic which although is set in Korea, could just as well have beenrnapplied to any other country in the world.