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Film Review: Please Don’t Save Me (2020) by Jeong Yeon-kyung

Please Don't Save Me (2020) by Jeong Yeon-kyung
Let's go get some ice cream!"

Inspired by an awful tragedy that took place in the city of Daegu, involving a mother and her daughter, came up with her feature debut, “Please Don't Save Me” a family (melo) drama that stands out because the protagonists are actually two 12-year-olds. 

After Seon-yoo's father committed suicide leaving behind a large sum of debt for them, Na-hee and her 12-year-old daughter Seon-yoo move to a new place to have new start. Already having to face the loss of her father and the unstable psychology of her mother, the girl, expectedly, finds it hard to adapt to her new school environment, especially since she becomes the point of attention of the classroom's prankster Jeong-gook. It turns out, however, that the boy actually wants to be her friend, and his insistence eventually makes Seon-yoo warm up to him. Her family's problems, however, keep persisting, and as the financial situation of her mother worsens, their circumstances become even more dire. 

Jeong Yeon-kyung directs a film that seems quite mainstream in terms of visuals, and occasionally naive in terms of context, particularly regarding the classroom and the whole role of the homeroom teacher. This, however, is just the first impression, and as the movie proceeds, the drama becomes more apparent, the context deeper, and the movie more interesting, with the whole thing finding its apogee in the shocking last scene. 

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In that fashion, the focus lies mostly in two axes. The first is Seon-yoo's relationship with her mother and how her grief, both for her state and her father's death, is affecting her psychologically, with the school environment being a clear mirror of the latter. Furthermore, when their debts become a factor, the young girl realizes even more what is going on, having another strain on her on top of the rest. The second axis, which is essentially the “cure” for all the aforementioned is her relationship with Jeong-gook, which, as usually at these ages, starts with him being a kind of bully before he shows his true colors and eventually “forces” Seon-yoo to warm towards him. The fact that their relationship still stumbles upon a number of bumps, considering her situation and his immaturity, is another intriguing element here that adds to the drama of the movie, while also presenting a very appealing romance of sorts. 

The rest of the axes, including Jeong-gook's relationship with his mother and brother, and the class environment add to the narrative from a secondary place. The latter, however, seems somewhat romanticized, particularly due to the behavior of the teacher, Hong, which truly seems too good to be true. Even this aspect, however, is not particularly annoying and actually adds a note of optimism and comedy in the movie that also benefits the most by Lee Hwi-jong's performance in the role. 

The direction, however, and Park Gok-ji's editing, find their apogee in the way the last scene is presented, which is completely unexpected in the most entertaining way, essentially adding another notch to an already very interesting story. Kim Hyung-koo's cinematography on the other hand is a bit too polished and too bright, occasionally even to an annoying degree.

Regarding the acting, Jeong Yeon-kyung managed to exact convincing performances from both her young protagonists. as Seon-yoo in particular is excellent in the way she tries to appear distant, not to let others realize her grief, and the way Jeong-gook changes her with his cheerfulness. in the role is also very entertaining to watch, with him exhibiting a very appealing cheerfulness. Lastly, as Na-hee is quite good in the way she portrays her growing despair and the way she tries to hide it from her daughter, mostly through lying. 

“Please Don't Save Me” is not a masterpiece, but is sensitive, funny and dramatic on the same time, while its ending definitely makes it stand out from the plethora of similar films coming out of Korea. 

About the author

Panos Kotzathanasis

My name is Panos Kotzathanasis and I am Greek. Being a fan of Asian cinema and especially of Chinese kung fu and Japanese samurai movies since I was a little kid, I cultivated that love during my adolescence, to extend to the whole of SE Asia.

Starting from my own blog in Greek, I then moved on to write for some of the major publications in Greece, and in a number of websites dealing with (Asian) cinema, such as Taste of Cinema, Hancinema, EasternKicks, Chinese Policy Institute, and of course, Asian Movie Pulse. in which I still continue to contribute.

In the beginning of 2017, I launched my own website, Asian Film Vault, which I merged in 2018 with Asian Movie Pulse, creating the most complete website about the Asian movie industry, as it deals with almost every country from East and South Asia, and definitely all genres.

You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

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