Hong Sang-soo seems intent in preserving the cinematic style the French specialized in during the early 1960’s. His movies often combine two of the topics most favored by New Wave filmmakers: the blurry line between fantasy and reality and the movies. In Nobody’s Daughter Haewon, the director delivers one of his most enjoyable films to date in telling the story of Haewon (Jeung Eun-chae), a bubbly young woman trying to succeed as an actress while having a tormentous affair with her married professor (Lee Sunkyun).
Hong captures his heroine in an assortment of intimate moments, mostly involving her hopelessly romantic takes on life. When she meets a visiting scholar who confesses he’s looking for a wife just like her, she immediately announces to her friends that she might be getting married soon and she assumes a guy is “the one”, because she ran into him more than once on the same day.
Even if the film never tries to dig deep into the characters, the director leaves enough clues for us to try and decipher why this woman turned out the way she is. One of the very first scenes shows her mother coldly say goodbye to her before moving to Canada, among her final pieces of advice is the suggestion that Haewon try to become Miss Korea since she can’t act. Through moments of quirk and “is it a dream?” confusion, we are led to believe that this woman is simply trying to stay away from real life as possible, she’s also developing a slight drinking problem which makes for some of the film’s funniest moments.
With endless mentions of pretending, setting up faux chance meetings, inner jokes that turn into insults, endless moments where a secret truth becomes public and an unexplainable Jane Birkin cameo that also references Charlotte Gainsbourg, Nobody’s Daughter Haewon, resembles a farce written by Moliere himself, if he too had been obsessed with the children of Marx and Coca Cola.
Nobody’s Daughter Haewon plays during the festival on 09/29 and 09/30. Go see it and come back here to help us figure out what Birkin was doing in the movie.