BiFan 2023 Review: HER HOBBY, Women Band Together in Topical Rural Revenge Drama

Contributor; Seoul, South Korea (@pierceconran)
BiFan 2023 Review: HER HOBBY, Women Band Together in Topical Rural Revenge Drama

Two women band together against the patriarchy in the sun-drenched rural revenge drama Her Hobby, the feature debut of director Ha Myung-mi.

Taking a big page out of the playbook of cult island revenge drama Bedevilled, though without the graphic gore, Ha's film unfolds in a small farming community where the men are lecherous creeps and the nagging and nosy middle-aged women do nothing to stop them from preying on the few young women unlucky enough to be living amongst them.

One of those women is the diffident young Jeong-in (Jung E-seo) who returns to the village following her divorce from an abusive husband, only for her beloved grandmother to pass away immediately upon her arrival. Left to fend for herself, she works on the local farms and tries to avoid crossing paths with her vile boss and a dangerously randy delivery man.

Things change after the self-assured Hye-jung (Kim Hye-na) rents the house next door, which she fills with her many hobby tools, including golf clubs, fishing rods and... shotguns. Recognising Jeong-in's precarious situation and perhaps seeing herself in the young woman, Hye-jung soon takes her under her wing.

This alliance comes at a very fortunate time for Jeong-in as she soon discovers her grandmother's secret stash - a pile of cash hidden under the kitchen's linoleum floor. The problem is that the villagers immediately catches wind of her new fortune. They all want a piece, as does a dark figure from her past, who hears about her windfall all the way up in Seoul.

Evoking the stifling mugginess of the countryside in summer, the film is elegantly staged, drawing us into its beautiful but treacherous locations. The production leans perhaps a little too hard on its lush staging, as the lingering and deliberate shots make the story slow to start, while the admittedly attractive drone and dolly shots sometimes feel superfluous.

Yet once the story begins in earnest it quickly sucks you in, as we easily sympathise with Jeong-in's predicament. Meanwhile Hye-jung is a charismatic presence and the burgeoning alliance with her younger ward makes for engaging viewing.

A few spurts of implied violence liven up the film's early going, but the bigger threats that enter the picture in its latter half leave something to be desired. The final villain proves a bit too weaselly to be truly effective, and the promised shotgun finale is a touch lacking in firepower.

Her Hobby has very similar themes to Bedevilled, but while it doesn't measure up to its predecessor as a piece of exploitation cinema, there's a strong emotional core within the tale of female solidarity and its message will ring out loud and clear to a modern audience.

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