“I don’t give a shit about politics or elections” screams Yeon-hong (Son Ye-jin) at her husband, Jong-chan (Kim Joo-hyuk), near the halfway point of The Truth Beneath. This works twofold: it communicates her obvious frustration with her husband—a nominee in South Korea’s presidential race—and his lack of interest in their missing daughter (Shin Ji-hoon), and it betrays director Lee Kyoung-mi’s apparent interest in the subject. Written by five people (including Park Chan-wook), Beneath feels scattershot as it tries to be a political thriller and a family mystery before settling on revenge drama.
Commentary on national media feels undercooked and shoehorned, as if added for relevance’s sake (the film was released right before President Park Geun-hye was impeached), being too broad to be biting and playing too little a role overall to matter. Once the movie shifts to vengeance, the material works, and Son’s increasingly unhinged performance helps to escalate the tension. There’s the usual hallmarks of Park present (obviously there has to be torture), but the film relieves its narrative and stylistic growing pains by the end with a grand reveal.
Previously published as part of New York Asian Film Festival | Dispatch 1.