Title: Our Body
A-wo Ba-di (아워 바디)
Director: Han Ka-ram (한가람)
Duration: 95 min.
Cast: Moon Choi / Choi Hee-seo (최희서), Ahn Ji-hye (안지혜), No Susanna (노수산나)
„Our Body“ is director Han Ka-ram’s feature film debut. It follows the life of 31-year-old Ja-young (Moon Choi), who is a graduate of a prestigious university but has been struggling to prepare for the civil servant exam for more than eight years. In the end, she decides not to take it – much to her mother’s dismay.
But Ja-young is not just 31 years old, she is also unmarried, painfully directionless, and, on top of that, seemingly suffering from a complete lack of ambition – probably the result of having to spend the better half of her youth studying; always trying to be better and meet society’s (and her family’s) expectations. In the beginning, Ja-young is in a rather unfulfilling, less-than-passionate relationship, which she then ends (with little emotion).
She later takes up temporary work offered by her friend Min-ji (No Susanna), though she does not seem to get any happier, let alone more comfortable with herself and/or her life. She is older than all the other part-timers, and while they appear to be quite vivid and happy, Ja-young drifts into lethargy. She knows she is not one of them, does not belong to the group. This is reinforced by a scene, where Ja-young is asked by a co-worker how she got to know Min-ji, which then results in awkward silence – because, yes, Ja-young and Min-ji are the same age.
When Ja-young meets the runner Hyun-joo (Ahn Ji-hye) at the park, her life suddenly finds new purpose, and she becomes increasingly obsessed with Hyun-joo, and Hyun-joo’s trim body. At some point, it is hard to tell whether Ja-young wants to enter a relationship with Hyun-joo or just wishes she was Hyun-joo. There is a certain chemistry between both characters and the scenes in which they are drinking alone in Hun-joo’s apartment or overview Seoul in the morning are full of tension.
Director Han’s decision, not to include a cinematic montage on how Ja-young (slowly but surely) becomes an “athlete” was a wise one. The audience gets to see both Ja-young’s struggles with her training and keeping up with the others and her development as a character: She seems reserved and quiet in the beginning, then evolves into a strong-minded, young woman. Through her regular running and the improvement of her overall state of mind, her posture also changes; her movements are confident, stable, and she also starts showing a bit of a temper. Although there is barely any talk about feelings, we still get an insight into both women’s emotions: While they run, they are free. Society’s expectations (as well as those of their families) and all other difficulties, be it discrimination because of age or gender, are put behind.
“Our Body” is a movie that does not shy away from talking about and even clearly showing current problems in Korean society. Ja-young, who is not yet married at age 31, calls herself “too old” to be able to find a (good) job and she also does not seem to be content with her looks (despite her being pretty and slim). Hyun-joo’s fit body seems to be the ideal.
Despite losing a bit of steam towards the end, and being a bit too ambitious for the length the movie has, “Our Body” is a well-made debut film and specially the acting of Moon Choi (Choi Hee-seo) is to be praised here.