Busan 2023 Review: In CONCERNING MY DAUGHTER, LGBT and Generational-Divide Themes Drive Poignantly Acted Drama

Contributor; Seoul, South Korea (@pierceconran)
Busan 2023 Review: In CONCERNING MY DAUGHTER, LGBT and Generational-Divide Themes Drive Poignantly Acted Drama

The most promising title in this year's Korean Cinema Today-Vision program, the section dedicated to introducing new Korean filmmakers at the Busan International Film Festival, Concerning My Daughter follows a woman's uncomfortable relationship with her daughter's same-sex partner, who comes to stay under her roof.

In this assured debut by director Lee Mirang, which is based on Kim Hye-jin's novel of the same name, prejudice and empathy collide in the form of unnamed woman in her fifties (played by Oh Min-ae, recently seen in Netflix's The Glory), who works as a caregiver at a nursing home and frets about her and her daughter's future in Korea's rapidly changing social climate.

At work, her charge is Je-hee, a woman who was formidable and beloved when she headed a charitable foundation, but is now wasting away without any family in her twilight years at the home. The woman dotes on Je-hee while her workplace's patience is growing thin, especially when contributions from her foundation dry up.

At home, the woman is mother to assistant professor Green (Im Se-mi of The Worst of Evil), an independently-minded character who is forced to move back in with her mother to save up money for a house. The mother allows herself to be a doormat for Green, who is happy to take and take from her.

Green is a fiery presence on her campus, where she protests against the unfair dismissal of an openly gay colleague. She moves back into her mother's home with her partner Rain (Ha Yoon-kyung, Extraordinary Attorney Woo), who the mother can't stand to be around.

Rain is a sterling houseguest, always cleaning up after herself and slaving away in the kitchen, but everything she and Green eat in the house -- pasta and wine, pancakes and bread -- are alien to the mother, just like their sexuality.

Part of the mother's open hostility towards Rain is driven by practical reasons rather than homophobic ones. Traditionally, children are supposed to grow up, get married, have children and then take care of their parents as they get older, but in today's Korea filial responsibility has begun to ebb. That, coupled with the poor country's poor social support network for the elderly, mean than many are being left behind in a rapidly aging society.

Given Green's extremely modern lifestyle, the woman fears that no one will be around to take care of her when she is no longer able to take care of herself. This is also what pushes her to commit herself to Je-hee's care, in the process frequently clashing with the nursing home's management. Je-hee, who supported many orphans from developing nations during her life, has been abandoned by everyone in her time of need. She is the woman's potential future, if her daughter were to abandon her.

Heartwarming and sincere, this captivating drama tackles its themes with grace and level-headedness. Led by a magnetic Oh, the performances are particularly strong in this terrific first outing for Lee, who previously worked as a script supervisor on Lee Chang-dong's Poetry, a film to which Concerning My Daughter does not compare unfavorably.

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BIFFBusan International Film FestivalhomophobiaLBGTsocial worker

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