There is no denying that the Korean crime thrillers are the frontrunners of the impact the country’s cinema has on international cinema. However, despite the quality of so many productions, their style seems very similar, particularly regarding the narrative and editing parts. “The Truth Beneath” excels at exactly these aspects, while retaining the quality of the rest (direction, acting, script, cinematography etc).
Yeon-hong is married to Jong-chan and has a teenage daughter named Min-jin, who used to be quite wild when she was even younger. Jong-chan worked as an announcer but is now preparing to run for elections as National Assembly member, and at the same time tries to hide his daughter’s shenanigans. Yeon-hong supports her husband with all her heart, but during the first day of the campaign, Min-jin disappears. As the days pass and the police do not find any clues, Yeon-hong becomes more and more desperate, and at the same time, infuriated with her husband and his team’s attitude, who do not seem to care for anything except the campaign. Yeon-hong begins a frantic search for her daughter, as she realizes that she did not know anything about her, and about her husband for that matter. The things she discovers and her daughter’s fate lead her towards madness, which also functions as her driving force.
Lee Kyoung-mi weaves an intricate web around the disappearance of Min-jin, which, gradually, reveals that everyone around the family is involved, including a friend from school, whose existence the parents ignored, a teacher, and even a member of Jong-chan’s staff. These revelations are accompanied by a number of plot twists that retain the agony, which Lee builds in a truly elaborate way, for the whole duration of the film.
At the same time, the story presents a number of social comments, regarding the cruelty of teenagers, the corruption and the immorality of politics, the relationship between parents and children, and the impact secrets can have on people. Add to the above some unexpected scenes of humor, some violence, and the clear message of “everybody lies” and you have the backbone of the movie.
The element that makes the film unique though, is its narrative, with Lee Kyoung-mi using a rather intricate approach to the story, which seems to follow the mentality of Yeon-hong, who manages to lose her mind while standing extremely focused to her purpose. This tactic gives a disorienting sense to the production, which benefits the story to the fullest, as the audience can actually feel and think exactly as Yeon-hong does, in a reality that borders on nightmare. In that fashion, Park Go-ji’s editing is masterful, managing to retain this sense with continuous elaborate cuts, among the flashbacks that permeate the narrative. Ju Sung-lim’s cinematography accompanies the above elements perfectly, with some impressive framing and coloring that highlight the sense Lee Kyoung-mi wanted to give to each scene.
Another great aspect of the movie is Son Ye-jin’s performance as Yeon-hong, who manages to present a character of much depth in astonishing fashion, particularly regarding the extremely difficult combination of bordering on hysteria and managing to keep her wits to the fullest in order to solve the case. The fact that she acts as a perverse caricature at times, reminded me of the acting in Park Chan-wook films, and is another element that highlights her performance.
Lee Kyoung-mi managed to accomplish a very difficult task, to present a different take on the crime thriller genre, and in the process, to create a masterpiece of the genre.