Helpless (2012)

Director: Byun Young Joo
Cast: Kim Min-Hee, Lee Sun-Gyun, Jo Sung-ha
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Running Time: 117 minutes

Director Byun Young Joo creates a fast paced and mysterious film in the form of Helpless (based on the best-selling novel All She was Worth by Japanese writer Miyuki Miyabe) which was released earlier this year.

The story is set up initially as a man searching for his lost finance that he and we as the audience fear might be in trouble. On the surface this story is simple but as the film progresses this begins to unravel and we are left holding on to our hats as we try to discover the truth.

The pace of the film is steady as Jang Mun-Ho (Lee Sun-Gyun) alongside his former detective cousin Kim Jong-Geun (Jo Sung-Ha) try to solve the puzzle of his fiancée’s disappearance and whether they might be trouble to come.

The lead actors work well together and Lee Sun Gyun plays the broken and emotional fiancé well, hi differing moods and resolve to find the woman he loves are commendable. His profession (as a vet) makes him seem sympathetic, caring and very attractive. He has a steady life and with the loss of his lover we can’t help but feel his sadness. There are times in the film when his seeming naivety to the not so pleasant sides of society leaves much to be desired.

However this can be construed as his overall innocence and good natured way of seeing the world. It isn’t all roses for him as he does have a difficult father to deal with and he does his fair share of swearing. I view his character as that of support, as we delve more and more into the story of his fiancée. She is the lead and leads him onto the underbelly of the society and unravels his ‘perfect life’.

Jo Sung-Ha as the disgraced former detective provides humour and a different level to the scenes. He is rational, deductive and seemingly aware of the other side of city life having seen many things in his previous work. He initially comes across as tired and lost but working as a private detective revives him and he comes across as someone you can trust to get to the truth.

We learn that he has been discharged due to bribery and his long suffering wife is left to support the family. Her addition in the film seems lacking, however I am sure Byun Young Joo wanted to showcase the situation that the detective finds himself in and how he has become worn out by life.

Kim Min-Hee is brilliant as the mysterious fiancée. She is dangerously beautiful and strong in her resolve. As Mun-Ho recalls his past lover she seems to be bathed in white light like an angel. It is clear to see why she earned the Best Actress title at the Buil Film Awards, she is not afraid to show her ugly side.

Although she is initially a suspect, the eventual true story leaves her as a victim of her environment and circumstance. However we may feel sorry for her, her actions are not glorified or put into a sympathetic filter in the end in my opinion.

Fundamentally this film seeks to showcase just how perceptions can alter the way we see the world and each other. Byun Young Joo shows us that sometimes we shouldn’t take people as they appear as there are many different levels and experiences that shape lives.

This is a must see film if you like slow paced and simmering crime/mystery stories that have dramatic twists and turns.

Rating: 8/10

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