I haven’t seen enough Korean movies recently, and was delighted to come across this little beauty.
“Bestseller” tells the story of Baek Hee-soo (Eom Jeong-hwa), a best-selling author recovering from a plagiarism scandal. Her agent sends her to a country house to rediscover her writing spark, but she uncovers a dark secret.
What I love about many Korean movies, is probably the very thing that most people would find frustrating about them – the genre shift. The film starts out as a typical Asian ghost film, with all the attendant atmosphere you might expect, but then halfway through, things shift and it becomes something a little more real world.
Hee-soo is a terrific character to lead a movie – she initially appears to be on the edge of a breakdown, her career and marriage on the rocks, her relationship with her young daughter strained. Then we get a bombshell that in any other film would be announced during the dénouement – but here we get it around halfway. Suddenly we see her in a totally different light, that she is actually the most unreliable of people to anchor ourselves with. Eom Jeong-hwa is probably one of the best Korean actresses as portraying someone on the edge, she is certainly far more than a pretty scream queen.
The film positively drips with atmosphere, making the most of the locations on offer, giving little hints of other movies like “Chaw” and “A Tale of Two Sisters”, and whilst it never reaches the heights of either of them, it comfortably holds its own.
I think the success of the film is that it throws away most of the supernatural elements halfway through (sorta, kinda), which raises it above the crowd. It throws up red herrings a plenty, only to revisit some of them later, leaving the viewer constantly on guard. One in particular is rather brilliantly done, shifting your perceptions of a character first this way, then that way, before eventually showing you that first impressions DO count.
I have actually had this review on hold for a few days, as I was struggling to really understand what so attracted me to the film. It took a discussion with the honorary, distaff member of the Things Fall Apart team to clarify my thoughts. What it is, is that there is nothing about this movie particularly original – all the various aspects you will find elsewhere, but it is held together in such a good way. It is probably not even a great movie, but for sheer quality entertainment, Korean style, it gets my vote.