“A Bedsore” first premiered at Jeonju International Film Festival and won over the theater. Individual audience members described the film as the best domestic “thriller” of the year. As one person described, “[“A Bedsore” was] bothersome – a bit too close to home – so I wanted to leave. But I had to see what happens next.”
What starts as an innocent wound festers into the wipeout of an entire household. Korean director Shim Hye-jung’s debut feature “A Bedsore” (2018) captures the minute frustrations of a family in three generations, as each tier of the family tree argues with one another in their struggle for a “better life.” Only the center of the drama, hemorrhaged grandmother Na Gil-soon (Jeon Guk-hyang) maintains a composed figure – weeping silently alone as her family tears itself apart.
The waters churn with the discovery of a bedsore on parapalegic Gil-soon. Her children, eldest son Kang Moon-soo (Kim Jae-rok) and only daughter Kang Ji-soo (Kim Do-young) are quick to point fingers at the live-in housemaid, illegal immigrant Ms. Yoo Soo-ok (Kang Ae-sim). When retired patriarch Kang Chang-sik (Kim Jong-gu) defends Ms. Yoo, the problem seems to fade… until Ms. Yoo starts to neglect the elderly couple to chase after her own legal (and possibly romantic) interests.
In this push-and-pull-drama, the same problems echo through each generation of the family. Despite his ailing wife, Chang-sik goes the extra mile to keep Ms. Yoo home. In the same way, Ji-soo tries to reign in her cheating husband, while her own daughter tries to keep a high school romance afloat. The situation only worsens as each individual faults one other for betraying filial piety for selfish benefit. Like a bedsore, the family seems fine in the beginning – until one argument after another inflames intergenerational discomfort, revealing repressed resentment all around.
Aside from some bizarre plot twists, the film’s depiction of family dynamic is stunningly detailed. Each family member has a backstory. Chang-sik for example, seems like a lonely old man, ever-devoted to his immobile wife but heartbroken. Moon-soo, too, seems like any stubborn son – until he reveals a deep-seated insecurity in comparison to his college-educated younger brother. Among the characters however, women are the ones who shine truly in center stage. Gil-soon’s struggle to express her affection tugs heartstrings. Ji-soo’s own superhuman effort to maintain her parents’ upkeep in the face of her own crumbling marriage tempts a tear.
And perhaps, in the story sparked by the tension between servant and served, Ms. Yoo stands out the most. Kang Ae-sim breathes life into her role, spinning a complex character equally concerned about the family and her impending deportation. Her high-strung, theatrical acting digs deeper into the usual housemaid caricature, demanding conflicting feelings of distrust and sympathy. In a time when illegal immigration and refugees preside over the news, Ms. Yoo suggests that perhaps the people we least expect (or respect) are more central to the prototypical family home than we think.
Though this feature screened late at night at Seoul International Women’s Film Festival (SIWFF), “A Bedsore” won over the theater. During the Q&A, individual audience members described the film as the best domestic “thriller” of the year. As one person described, “[“A Bedsore” was] bothersome – a bit too close to home – so I wanted to leave. But I had to see what happens next.”