Being a woman in Korea has never been easy (as depicted in a plethora of movies) and Joo Young’s “Uncomfortable” highlights this fact in this rather pointy short.
The film starts with the protagonist Hyun-nam enjoying herself with a female friend in a karaoke parlor, where we also learn that she is recently divorced, something no one in her life seems to be able to let her forget. After a while, we witness her at her office job, where a male colleague, seemingly a friend, tell her that she has to follow her supervisor on a New Year’s walk in the mountains, where he will also attend. The hike takes the biggest part of the film, in a path that has her meeting various individuals, all of which seem to have something to say about her ex-husband. The two men in the trio eventually get drunk (without allowing her to join them) and soon things become much worse for Hyun-nam, despite the presence of another woman, who seems to know exactly how to handle this kind of men.
Joo Young directs a short that highlights the difficulties women have to face in the male dominated Korean society, both socially and professionally. The fact that most of the people she meets perceive her as her ex’s wife instead of an individual, the exclusion from the male “rituals” (like drinking) and most of all, the sexual harassment (with her boss even throwing a bone of promotion or her colleague calling her bunny) all highlight this aspect in the most eloquent fashion. The same applies to the fact that Hyun-nam seems to be happy just when she is by herself (as in the scene in the top of the mountain) or with a female friend. Young also takes this comment a step further, as Hyun-nam eventually turns violent in order to stop the drunken advances of her colleague, although this scene indicates that women have to protect themselves and does not promote violence in any way.
Lee Yu-ha gives an excellent performance in the protagonist role, highlighting her feelings and thoughts both silently (with her looks and body stances) and quite vocally, in a number of scenes where she lashes out, with equal artistry.
Yoon In-cheon’s cinematography focuses on realism, although the night shots and the images from the mountains are particularly impressive. Joo-young’s own editing has the film unfolding in a slow pace, in distinct indie fashion, which seems to suit the overall aesthetics of the movie quite nicely.
Joo Young had a clear goal in her mind when shooting “Uncomfortable”, and she has managed to communicate it clearly and artfully. One could ask for nothing more from a 26-minutes short.