Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 1 post ] 
Author Message
PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2023 6:30 pm 
Site Admin

Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2003 1:50 pm
Posts: 4756
Location: California/NYC


Dangerous caregiving

Despite increasing implausibilities as it unfolds, Lee Sol-hui's Greenhouse is an impressive debut - an ingenious piece of deadpan, genre-twisting psychological comedy-horror. It is well-acted, and the director's edits (and she wrote and directed too) neatly cut off scenes before we expect. The screenplay economically interweaves plot lines, the action mixing downbeat, sinister, criminal, and deranged. The milieu has more than a touch of Alzheimer's, a diagnosis cunningly used to blend the unexpected and the dangerous.

It's all kept plausible and sedate., at least at first. Ending with the torching of a flimsy greenhouse, it's also a bit of an homage to Lee Chang-don, whose Burning has a string of such events. Indeed Neil Young, in his Busan Screen Daily review, suggests Greenhouse is what might happen if Chang-dong were to film a screenplay "co-written by John Waters and Francois Ozon." Greenhouse is enthusiastically morbid, like Waters, and plays with conventionality outrageously, like Ozon.

At the center of things is Kim Seo-hyeong as Moon-jung, a middle-aged woman with bad luck and a habit of mild self-harm - she tends to smack herself - for which she attends a support group. This group reveals the tone of the whole affair, for there's something a little off about it. The supervisor is a bit too enthusiastic, and leads opening rituals that have a cultish quality. The other participant whom Moon-jung befriends, but shouldn't have, Soon-nam (Ahn So-yo), is an ever-so-slightly ghoulish young women who, so encouraged, sticks to Moon-jung like flypaper.

As Moon-jung, Kim Seo-hyeong, around whom everything revolves. is frazzled but beautiful. At serene, hopeful moments, she can look radiant. But when cast down she appears stricken and lost. She soldiers through: but maybe she shouldn't, because she gets herself in a whole lot of trouble.

Moon-jung lives spartanly in a makeshift plastic-encased greenhouse, saving every penny from her carer job with an elderly couple to get a decent apartment to share with her adolescent son when he gets out of juvenile detention. She has an aged mother, who lives in a miserable nursing home. Of the couple she cares for, the wife, Hwa-ok Lee (Shin Yeon-sook), has Alzheimer's, and the husband, Tae-jung (Yang Jae-sung), is diagnosed by a doctor friend as in the early stages of it. But he is already blind. And the wife with Alzheimer's is paranoid and thinks Moon-jung is planning to kill her.

With someone blind, you can hide something in plain sight - can't you? But how much can you put over on such a person? Even with early Alzheimer's, Tae-jung , played with subtle conviction by veteran actor Yang Jae-sung, perceives more than other people on the screen. He just wishes he didn't.

It takes a minute to see that Lee's style and this movie aren't downbeat, but, as Young puts it, "consistently and resolutely deadpan."l And when you get that, and relax into the slow movement appropriate to the combination of an ultra-respectful servant-type lady and a set of elderly people - elderly but unpredictable - you're tuned in for the fun. For this is a quietly outrageous film where you wonder what preposterous thing is doing to happen next. And this continues up until the release of Moon-jung's son from juvie, with three of his fellow bad boys, looking for fun themselves, having told their guardians they're getting out the day after, to allow a day to play.

Greenhouse 비닐하우스 , 100mins., in Korean, debuted at Busan Oct. 2022. It was screened for this review as part of the Jul. 14-30, 2023 NYAFF, where it showed July 22, with a Q&A with Lee Sol-hui. It opens theatrically July 26, 2023 in Korea.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 1 post ] 

All times are UTC - 8 hours

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 22 guests

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group