Film review – The Housemaid (2010)

The Housemaid: Euny (Jeon Do-yeon)
Euny (Jeon Do-yeon)

The Housemaid is an erotic thriller about a maid working for an extremely wealthy family. Her subservience to the family, which includes willingly making herself sexually available to the husband, is overtly used by director Im Sang-soo to savagely critique the massive gap between the excessively wealthy and the working-class in contemporary Korea. A loose remake of a 1960 film of the same name, The Housemaid is typical of recent South Korean cinema with its kinetic style, play on generic conventions and social commentary.

This is an enjoyable film that looks impressive, is technically accomplished and is suitably sexually charged. However, its social inequality message is very heavy-handed and rather than offering any serious insight, the film functions more as a heightened melodrama. Tonally the film is enjoyably playful but both the story and message are for the most part a little simplistic and obvious. However, its completely over-the-top final scene and then bizarre epilogue are so bewildering that you are ultimately left unsure what the point of the film was after all. Surreal flourishes can be very effective but in the case of The Housemaid it leaves you feeling slightly unsatisfied.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 365, 2010

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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